Ash Wednesday: Facing My Mortality


Do I really look like a senior citizen?

The exchange between the elderly cashier at Belk and I went like this:

Me:  “Do you work a lot of hours?  You’re here every time I shop.”

She looked past me and tiredly nodded “yes”.

Her: “Are you using your Belk charge today?” She asked mechanically.

Me: “No.”

Her: “Are you a senior?” she asked expressionlessly.

Me: “How old do you have to be to be considered a senior?”

Her: “55”

Me: “No, not yet.”

Her: “It sneaks up on you.” She responded with an almost in perceptible sigh.


I walked away from the counter shell shocked.

This was a first—a rite of passage.

Reading my thoughts and sensing the assault on my vanity, Robyn intervened immediately, bless her heart.

“Mommy.  You do not look old!”

“I don’t know what she was thinking.”

“You’re stylish. You’re not fat and your gray hairs look like highlights.”

“You look way younger than all of your friends—well, most of them.”

“You don’t even have hardly any wrinkles.”

Thank you, Robyn.  Your words are a salve.

The car ride home was quiet lacking the typical banter.  I was thinking—processing.  I lifted my pointer finger to my forehead and ran it along one worry crease, then a second and then over the frown lines between my eyes.  I earned those creases and lines, permanently etched across my brow.  They are evidence of years and decades of anxiety, fear, worry about anything and everything.  They age me.

My mind retrieved one image after another.  Snapshots of my life rotating along like a digital slideshow.  All of those times I furrowed my brow and forged my own path, fueled by the adrenalin of fight or flight.  All of those moments when, rather than trusting, I formulated my own cowardly plan for self protection—self preservation.

One I could control.

I’m marked by this cycle of worry and anxiety from my family of origin, like a generational fingerprint.  While I “come by it honestly”, says my counselor-friend, continuing the cycle uninterrupted is just plain sin.

It was Ash Wednesday–the Christian holiday where we acknowledge that from dust we came and to dust we will return (Gen. 3:19). We accept that our life is temporary and our plans are fluid.   With penitence, humility and sorrow we admit how greatly we fall short of God’s glory every day of this brief life we are gifted with.

Every day…..

Wasn’t it yesterday I was playing marbles at recess, learned to drive, spoke the vow “till death do us part”, brought my first baby home from the hospital?

The first 47 yesterdays multiplied by 365 slipped past so quickly and the lady at Belk thinks there were already 55.

What about tomorrow?  And the coming year?  The next decade? Perhaps another quarter century or more?

Will my life be adorned with a contrite heart and clothed with strength and dignity, able to laugh without fear of the future? (Prov. 31:25)

Later, I run my finger across my forehead again.  This time, I feel the ashes—palm branches from yester year, incinerated and gritty against my skin.  Forming a cross, covering those worry creases.  Right above the frown lines.

And I feel compassion for myself and my visceral struggle. And I feel gratitude that fuels repentance for all of the fretting —all that need to control in order to feel safe.    And it ignites a passion to live courageously, trusting God, taking risks, forging a stronger legacy tomorrow than I did yesterday.

So starts the Lenten season….

3 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday: Facing My Mortality

  1. Me, too, Hope – in May I’lI turn 47, and the cashier at Ross just asked me if I needed the senior discount. 😳😢
    I had a good laugh about it (later!), taking comfort in the fact that you’d experienced the same jolt and lived to tell about it.

    Tell Robyn I absolutely LOVE her writing and appreciate the faith-boost I receive from reading!

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