Last year was the first time I had imposed ashes.  I had the opportunity the year before but knew that it would have been too close to my second surgery, too close to the last time I faced my own possible death, for me to solemnly remind others that we are all mortal without falling apart.  It was a good choice.  Imposing ashes last year was a wonderful and awe-filled opportunity. It is one of the many mysteries I look forward to continuing to participate in through my years in the Church.
There is such power in the Ash Wednesday reminder that we are dust and to dust we will return.

My Forehead, My Thumb

When it is my forehead
it is the creamed grit and gentle coarseness,
the earthy feel of the dirty smudge
which I must later wash off,
this smeared ash that I feel
the abrasive reminder
that this is what I will return to

When it is my thumb
it is the smooth, resilient skin that I feel
the eyes full of need
and hope and fear that I meet
my hand marring the baby’s unknowing sweetness,
my thumb on elders’ papery skin
it is my voice which murmurs
the poetic reminder of mortality
and I know, amidst all these signs of life,
that we are returning to dust

written 2-6-08

I had planned to post this poem for several weeks and when I saw Christine’s Invitation to Poetry this I saw that she had a similar thought for the day.  Click over and read through other people’s offerings.