I walked into the grocery store today after attending morning Mass, impervious to odd looks and whispered comments. Actually, there weren't that many... but, I had to tell the young girl at the checkout three times that the smudge on my forehead was there on purpose. She couldn't get why I wouldn't wipe it off. I suppose I should have tried to explain better, instead of just smiling and continuing to bag my own groceries, though I didn't. How could I explain my delight at the ephemeral nature of mankind?
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. We are but frail carbon creatures, sentient lumps of clay who never cease dreaming of the far-off stars. Yet, we remain earthbound from our first breath to our last. Reminded of my own insignificance with a thumb-full of ashes, smeared in the sign of a cross above my brow; rather than be embarrassed by this annual Lenten observance, I feel somehow more genuine. It is freeing, really, remembering that we aren't the center of the universe - let alone the center of attention! - but only a small collection of the same molecules that make up everything else on this planet. It reminds us that in caring for creation, we are caring for ourselves. We've got one job here, and that is to live life well. Not extravagantly, consumers only, but with meaning, making our short dash count. Our legacy - the good or bad we've done - is all we leave behind. Our spirits move on, and the rest gets composted.
I would like the mark I leave to be something of beauty, not blight. Something that speaks to the wonder of my existence, and revels in the grace that breathed me into being.