Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Lenten Meditation--The Death of My Father

On Ash Wednesday I imposed ashes on the foreheads of both young and old alike. I told everyone from a small child to an elderly man that they are dust, and to the dust they shall return. The following Sunday, the First Sunday of Lent, my father killed himself. On Thursday I watched as my father’s body was returned to the earth.

From the earth we come, and to the earth we shall all return.
His death has become my Lenten Meditation. I have not the detached, elegant-terseness of the much-maligned Meursault in Camus’ novel The Stranger. I cannot simply say, “[Father] died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.” I do know. My father killed himself on the First Sunday of Lent. The last time we spoke was on Ash Wednesday.

Unlike Camus’ strange novel there was no telegram sent saying:
“[Father] passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.”

In my case there were only sincere voices passing through lonely telephones.

God does indeed speak bad grammar.

Marked by Ashes
Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933)

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . . This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
     halfway back to committees and memos,
     halfway back to calls and appointments,
     halfway on to next Sunday,
     halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
     half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
   but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
     we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
       of failed hope and broken promises,
       of forgotten children and frightened women,
     we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
     we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
   some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
   anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
   you Easter parade of newness.
   Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
     Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
     Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
   Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
     mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.