Pondering our Mortality this Ash Wednesday

Contemplating your own demise.
If you do it well, it will make you happy.
So says the NY Times.
It’s an interesting narrative and what better time to embrace it then Ash Wedensday, the church holiday marking the beginning of the season of Lent.
As those cinders smear across my forehead vertically then horizontally, I am reminded that it’s not just from dust I was formed, it is to dust I will return.

I’ll be honest.
I don’t want to live so long that my arthritic fingers can’t pick up a spoon and I need to have my behind wiped for me, or worse yet, I go potty in a “brief”.
And I don’t prefer to lie in bed all day staring up at geometrical patterns in the ceiling tile all the dark, gloomy days of a Michigan winter while fighting off bed sores.
I’m not excited about eating pureed food or drinking Ensure for nutrition.
And it hurts me to think of forgetting my children’s names or not recognizing my husband.img_3915
Don’t even get me started on wrinkly skin that hangs off the bones like a turkey’s neck. It’s fine on other people but I cringe at the thought of being remembered looking like that. Already at 50, I can’t reconcile the girl inside with the reflection in the mirror. The shell is morphing while the soul remains youthful.

I wonder what God accomplishes through aging. It wasn’t His original design but He can redeem anything.
Perhaps as our autonomy is compromised, reliance can be cultivated in it’s place,
And as our voice is diminished, our opinions regarded as obsolete, we are postured for greater humility,
As validation through status and accomplishments get exposed as fool’s gold, our identity in Christ can authenticate,
And as we lose the relationships we’ve loved best, space is created to receive His affection,
As our appetite for the world’s enticements diminish, an attachment to heaven may emerge,
And as we can do less we are positioned to pray more.
The endgame ultimately poses us for greater trust.
And therein are the mercies.ladybugs-2

Honestly, I’d prefer to choose the conclusion of my story.
And I don’t want to die with a long to-do list.
Or before I raise my Littlest.
I’d like to read books to my grandchildren all cuddled up in an oversized chair too, if it’s up to me.
But ultimately, God writes our final chapter, concluding the temporal and commencing the eternal.
And the ones left behind compose the epilogue.

It starts with a memorial amalgamating honor and closure in the paradox of celebration and grief.
Make mine personal.
Read God’s words about timing and seasons.
Sing about His faithfulness.
Reflect on my journey and the people He caused to cross my path. Recount the beautiful ways lives touched each other.
Give dignity to my unique identity as His image bearer, acknowledging strengths, talents and abilities but honestly admit my weaknesses too. Fear and insecurity dogged me this side of the river.
And laugh at my strange idiosyncrasies like the way I paint one fingernail as a trial and leave it that way for months.
And how I sneeze uncontrollably when my right eyebrow gets plucked.
And my tendency to bring stray people and puppies home and try to adopt them into the family.
Cry muddled up tears of joy and sorrow for the broken beautiful of our imperfect stories all intermingled.
Eat together and savor the sweetness of food and friendship.

And afterwards, let death be your tutor.
Contemplate the brevity of life,
The momentous impact of extending forgiveness,
The compelling freedom in apologizing,
The pressing call to invest your time eternally,
The significant blessing of loving words rolling freely off your tongue.

You see, Life is a gift and death re-wraps it in new paper and repurposes it in the hearts of those we have loved through memory and legacy.

If you attend to another with care and curiosity because you saw that in me,
If you hug long and squeeze hard because you felt loved and secure when I did,
If you welcome your tears and invite others to share theirs,
If you adopt the posture of a lifelong learner,
If you merge bold, crazy dreams with determination and creativity,
If you write your stories then tell them to your children,
If prayer is your daily rhythm,
If in some way, I directed your attention to Jesus,
Well, that is a beautiful life.
And that is an abundance of mercy.
You know, I think the NY Times is right after all. If you do it well, contemplating your own death will make you happy.dscf5760

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