Friday, February 09, 2018

Skipping Ash Wednesday

I have been thinking about Ash Wednesday lately. My current thought is that I will skip it. My health leads me to believe that I will be having my own real life (or should that be real death?) ashes to ashes, dust to dust moment sooner rather than later. I am not dead yet but my lung tissue function is way down. Physical movement sends my blood/oxygen levels down into the high 70s, low 80s. Mostly I sit on the couch during the day and Jim totes me around in a wheel chair if I have to go anywhere.

The brain seems to be getting enough oxygen to keep active - mentoring EfM, "reading" audio books, doing NYTimes Crossword puzzle with few hints except on Saturday, doing online communications for our Indivisible group and a keeping a couple of websites.

Mostly I am content with my life though I go through periods of sadness about leaving it. I really like this life and can't imagine anything else. I am not depressed - just sad.

I will probably skip Lent too -- enjoy what I have and skip the discipline! If I am not doing whatever I think I should be doing by now- I doubt I will pick it up in the next 40 days.

But I do recommend Ash Wednesday and Lent as an antidote for the relentless pursuit of cheer and happy feelings by US culture. I think Lent can help those of us who are not filled with happiness every moment feel a little more normal and not wrong for other feelings and suffering.  We don't have to take the blame for our feelings or things that happen-- they are not shameful. They are just life.

Blessings of Lent to all.

17 comments:

IT said...

We'e only met once IRL but you are a daily part of my life, thanks to social media, and a much valued friend. Your grace and serenity on this journey is truly inspiring.

Maureen said...

Ann,
I think your words are full of wisdom. And they make me sad because I want you to stay around for years and years.
I have a busy couple of weeks coming to, but would love to see you the last week of February, first week of March.
Sending ��,
Maureen

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Ann, on every point, but especially the relentless pursuit of cheerfulness. It's like there is an addition to the unspoken rule that "you can't be too thin or have too much money" or be too cheerful. It's okay to be sad. Or angry. Or even, God knows, at a restless peace with yourself and the hand you've been dealt. I think that's the big attraction to the TV show "This Is Us". It's not just that it's an "unusual" family. It's that the characters are honest about what they are feeling.

So, skip Ash Wednesday and, in fact, Lent. I only bring Ashes for distribution to my Hospice patients if they request it. Most don't. They already know they are "dust and to dust" they shall return. Last Ash Wednesday, at her request, I brought a huge homemade banana cream pie to one of my British patients. She ate 1/3 of it in one sitting, giggling and laughing the whole way like the schoolgirl she once was while telling me stories about WWII in England. When she finished and I carried the rest of the pie to the refrigerator she promised she would have some for breakfast for the rest of the week. Her voice followed me out to the kitchen as she said, "It's a great way for an old dying British lady like me to spend Ash Wednesday and the first week of Lent, don't you think?" "Yes," I called back, "I do. I think Jesus thinks so as well." "Oh, I know he does," she said, sighing and falling back into her chair with a great satisfied grin. "I know he does."

You are living your faith. Your sharing it with us is the best experience of Ash Wednesday and Lent many of us will have. Much better than a smudge on the forehead and a few mumbled words. Thank you.

Tricia Gates Brown said...

Thank you for this, Ann. Sending love. Tricia

Georgia DuBose said...

Here is how I felt in your living room: life-affirming (at a moment in my life that had left me feeling abandoned and unsupported and not very "cheerful"), in the presence of someone with a life well-lived, and very much enjoying your company. I did not feel that you were putting on an act of any kind, just that you were fully and completely yourself, frank about facing mortality, and still very much connected with those around you. Thank you.

Karen Meridith said...

Quite right, Ann. Those who are in touch with the finitude of human existence need no reminder. I applaud your desire to live into the grace of the time you are granted. And I count it as grace that I have gotten to know you through EfM.

And thanks too for the reminder that we need not be unrelentingly cheerful. I remember being shocked when I was asked by a newcomer whether it was “OK not to be happy at this church.” Her comment sparked a reflection that began at the “up short” moment.

Happy Lent. Eat chocolate if you want it.

SCG said...

A wise decision by a woman whose wisdom I have come to really value in our various online connections.

June Butler said...

I'm not doing Lent or ashes, either, Ann. I gave up giving up stuff for Lent several years ago and tried being kind and doing good. I'm not sure I did well with my attempts, but the more I think about the church seasons, the more I come to the conclusion that living Christianity is for every day.

The Two Great Commandments and the Golden Rule, along with Micah 6:8 are my touchstones in the Bible. I pray at home most days, sometimes with prayers that are quite short, and read the assigned Bible passages in the Lectionary. That's my Lent and all year round.

I wish you a gentle time for whatever days, weeks, months, or years that remain for you. Love and prayers.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

Christina Brennan Lee said...

My best thoughts and prayers are with you, my friend. I appreciate the many years we have known each other and all I have learned from you and with you. You are living with the sacrifice of Lent already so just keep finding the joy and the light in all you do. We who love you are already rewarded!

Barbara W. Gray said...

It’s all been said...so eloquently and heartfelt. That you stay in the moment with grace and share it because it’s who you are...living your calling yet again .. thank you is an understatement. My love to you...and laughter...oh, yes.

Audene Jay said...

Oh Ann
Ann full of grace
So hard the leaving

Must be glorious
Where you
We
All are going
Because it is
Such a painful trip to get there
The reward must be beyond
Imaginings

Oh Ann
Ann full of grace
Thank you
For sharing
Your wisdom
Your love
Your smile
With me
With all of us
You have blessed us
By just being you
Whether cheerful
Whether sad

Oh Ann
Ann full of grace
Your kindness and compassion
Will always be with me
Your fierceness of right
Your bravery to speak the truth
Your laughter
So bright and lifting

Oh Ann
Ann full of grace
I am so sad
That you are going
From this life you love
You always say about a passing
“Rise up in glory!”
I believe that is just what you will do.

Dan said...

Thank you, Ann for sharing this reflection and updating us on your condition. I think of you and Jim often and the kindness you showed me after Al died, for which I will be forever grateful. Thoughts and prayers for you both.
Love from the right coast!
Dan

Dan said...

Ann - Thank you for sharing this reflection and for updating us on the state of your health. I think of you and Jim often and remember the kindness you showed me after Al’s death. Thoughts and Prayers with and Jim... now and always.
Love, Dan

michael Hanley said...

Thank you Ann, well said. This is a great life, even with the challenges we face and the pain that is ours to carry.

Jenifer said...

Dearest Ann, I take heart in your witness of love and truth. You have shown me a good way to live. With thanksigivings, Jenifer

madelinebialecki said...

Lent 2012 was my friend Jim's last Lent--he had brain cancer (glioblastoma) and by Lent, he had already outlived expectations. We were living the Paschal mystery every day--living life as fully as possible as we faced his death. I remember early that Lent, we read from Isaiah, "I am doing something new." I stopped reading at that point and Jim and I talked about all the "new" we were experiencing--some wonderful (all the blessings, our deep faith and gratitude in abundance) and some so very sad and difficult (Jim was failing physically by then and barely able to walk). Jim died the Tuesday of Holy Week, and I cannot imagine ever having a more significant Lent. Thank you for sharing your story and bringing back my precious memories of caring for Jim. He loved to say, "The best is yet to come."

Ann said...

I try not to be too cranky with my beloveds. Others can take up this ministry if you want -- my cranky outlets!