To Dust We Shall Return
She sat. She squirmed. She doodled, drew, underlined, and crossed out. She cuddled, snuggled, and rummaged around in my purse for a vitamin C drop. We were at Ash Wednesday worship, very close to bedtime, on the day after her great-grandmother, her Nanna, died.
Death was the theme of the evening, wasn't it? "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Pastor Gollenberg was talking about how all of us gathered there were aliens - different, weird, set apart from others because we were at worship on a Wednesday, getting ashed smeared on our foreheads, believing in a God who was going to die. He talked about fasting, not necessarily from food, but from things that tend to take over our lives, if I recall correctly. I admit, things got a little fuzzy for a while there. Not because it was late and I was tired and my bed was calling; not because I was daydreaming or nodding off; but because the squirmy child climbed into my lap.
She motioned for me to tilt my ear toward her, and whispered in my ear.
"I'm glad that Nanna decided to die the day before Ash Wednesday," she said. "It's good to be here at worship tonight. All this talk about death really helps me to feel better." I didn't respond right away, partly because Pastor was saying something about not hoarding earthly treasures and I really did want to hear what he was preaching, but mostly because my mind was reeling from this child - so deep is her faith, that she finds comfort in the reminder that death is not the end.
We talked about it more this morning - or perhaps I should say she talked about it more this morning, as I drove us home from the store. "Pastor said, 'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.' I think that is talking about the body part of ourselves. I think if we talk about the soul part, we can say, 'Remember you are from God, and to God you will return. We'll bury Nanna's body in the ground tomorrow, but her soul is with God. I think dying is kind of like sleeping. When you die it's like you fall asleep. Your body part doesn't wake up. It's dead because your soul wakes up with God. Your soul is your energy and when it leaves your body your body dies because it doesn't have your energy in it anymore. Or something like that. At least that's what I think. Imagine that - waking up and finding you're with God!"
She's going with me to the funeral mass and burial tomorrow while my husband takes our other kids, who do not wish to attend, to homeschool co-op. Some people are worried about how my just-turned-six-year-old will handle everything. I think she'll be just fine.
I, however, may have a tough time convincing her that a Catholic Mass is not the time for a rousing chorus of There's One More Angel in Heaven.