The ritual of the annual Ash Wednesday service propelling him forward.
Her eyes meet mine, and I see in them
Something deeper than this strange thing we call "imposition."
It is almost as if he knows, somehow;
So I don't have to say the words I've prepared:
Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
I can tell she knows them already, lives them every day
Words that rested on his heart when he buried his mother last year
Words she hears whispered in the evening newscast about another ISIS beheading,
Words he lives into when a sought-after job promotion
Brings longer work hours and increased expectations.
Nothing but dust.
So I simply say his name as my blackened index finger
Drags the ash across her forehead.
Peter. Will. Lilly. Hunter. Ruth Ann. Kathleen. Irva. Monte.
Tom. Another Tom. Bruce. Carolyn. Michelle. Rhonda.
And now it is my turn, and as the cross is formed
I hear my name called. And my eyes speak the truth:
I am dust, and to dust I shall return.
There is hope in the ashes
Faithful expectation embracing the bitter raw world
Of death, terrorism and fear, endless ladder climbing.
There is hope in knowing
That we come from and one day will return to dust.
For even dust has a Creator.
Even we have a name.
We leave the sanctuary silently, so words
Will no longer get in the way.
Later she would say to me, It's my most favorite service of the year.
And now, finally, I believe I know why.
Ashes. Dust. A name.