Ashes and Dust

March 16, 2022

 “We therefore commit this body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life”.  ~ Book of Common Prayer

Today would be my sister Carol’s 79th birthday. I plan to eat a cupcake with buttercream frosting in her memory. I will do so in the presence of her ashes, which I picked up yesterday, March 15, with the words from Shakespeare’s Caesar, “Beware the ides of March,” on my mind.

I confess that this is the first time for me to retrieve a loved-one’s ashes from the funeral home. I wanted to put her in the passenger seat, but she hated seatbelts. I didn’t want to let her ride without the seatbelt, lest I brake suddenly, and she’d go flying so with apologies I put her on the floor.  I was going to let her ride along for the rest of the day, but it was hot, and I didn’t want her to think she’d gone in the wrong direction. Gallows humor can be helpful at times. I have a “sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life.” And it is comforting to have a little more time with what remains.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” When the celebration of life takes place later this spring I will scatter her ashes in a state park, along with the ashes of her husband, Michael, who preceded her in death. I’ve been wondering where exactly the dust of her ashes will travel over time. Might they catch a jet stream and travel to places she’s never visited? Might they make their way back to Woodstock, unbeknownst to me, as dust on my furniture? The poet Marilyn Nelson’s Dusting gives flight, and solace to my imaginings.

Dusting

Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.

For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.

My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.

For eternity revealed in the words of a poet, I give God thanks. ~ Anne

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