Dust and Ashes

Source: briticana.com

As I was growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, dust was perennial on the Saskatchewan prairies.  Our farm home was always full of dust.  No paved roads meant passing vehicles launched tons of it.  The daily regime: constant dusting and cleaning.

In 1947 I remember taking a small break from my sisters and our mud pie play on the east side of the car shed.  I wandered south of the shed.  Looking at the western horizon, I noticed a huge black menacing shape towering high into the sky.  Nonplussed, I returned to our playing.

Awhile later my twenty-some uncle Joe appeared, picked up one sister and disappeared.  He reappeared and another sister was gone.  Then another one.  Finally I was alone.  Young and dumb, I was absorbed in my play world.

Then uncle Joe suddenly appeared again, threw his jacket over my head, and picked me up.  As he left the lee side of the shed heading to the house I felt the power of the wind and the dust sandpapering my bare legs.  A dust storm!  Scary.

Sixty six years later, just eight years ago, I celebrated the funeral Mass for one of my rescued playmates, my sister, Vivian.  After, the funeral director invited her children and me to the cremation room.  I offered a prayer with them.Fr. Frank making mud pies with his sisters - Vivian, Lillian, and Myrna - circa 1947.

The director asked her eldest son, Kerry, to push the button to begin the incineration process.  Bravely, he did.  We left.  Later we placed her ashes next to those of her husband’s, Alex, in the columbarium.  Ashes.  Scary.

At the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, these two memories are foremost in my mind.   As the ashes are blessed and then anointed with the words ‘remember you are dust and to dust you shall return’, I think ‘scary’.

But I also feel the mark of the cross on my forehead remembering the promise Jesus made at my baptism, ‘if you suffer and die with me, you will share in my resurrection’,  and I remember the feeling of safety in the arms of my uncle Joe in the dust storm.

Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, is pastor of St. Ignatius parish in Winnipeg.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 01:14h, 16 February Reply

    Thank you Frank!

  • graeme quinlan
    Posted at 06:05h, 16 February Reply

    This bought back vivid memories of my childhood here in central Victoria Australia. One summer we experienced an incredible dust storm , never seen seen before . It was the most frightening thing we had experienced . Relating to this story I am bought to the realisation , that no matter what the tempest, the threat to us is .Alway’s remember that this dust that blow’s upon us is God’s reminder that we are nothing but the dust of the earth and that is where our bodies will remain. But our Soul will never,never be lost to the the storms of nature.

  • Vicky Chen
    Posted at 07:04h, 16 February Reply

    What an endearing reflection! Thank you.

  • Sr Joan Broussard
    Posted at 08:46h, 16 February Reply

    Beautiful experience

  • Roger Yaworski SJ
    Posted at 10:34h, 16 February Reply

    Thanks Frank.
    Happy Lent.

  • Ivon Bellavance
    Posted at 11:59h, 16 February Reply

    Frank big thanks for that reflexion inspiring by your childood time in your lovely town. The link you do with Ash wendnesday is very profond. I like how you integrate your life experiences in our christian events. Beautifull.

  • Peter Monty
    Posted at 15:06h, 16 February Reply

    Thank you for the memorable reflection, Frank.

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