I started the Ash Wednesday service here in our rural, Protestant church five or six years ago. It is an intimate setting with the first year bringing around ten and this year bringing 30.
I can barrel through my emotions from the pulpit on a Sunday morning 99% of the time, but there is something about the intimacy of Ash Wednesday - the touching, the looking into each person's eyes - that makes it hard to keep those emotions focused and bottled.
For these reasons and others Ash Wednesday seems to be a heavy emotion service for me. I remember them.
In 2004 I was grateful for Lent. I felt like at least the liturgical world was giving me room to grieve our child who never took a breath in this earthly kingdom. I trembled as I said the words, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return."
In 2005 I was one of the lucky ones who was able to preach from the other side of the darkness. In the 'typical' Ash Wednesday meditation I was able to give creedance to the hope at the other side - it is there - having myself gone from a delivery room filled with the gasps and sobs of nurses and myself to one where the loudest cry was one of a newborn with supplemental tears of joy from all of those around him that day.
Yesterday I struggled.
I was haunted by the image of just a year before placing the ashes on TDH's head and in that moment praying for him because I knew something was wrong. I had labeled it 'depression' and thought I knew the catalysts. I remember coming home and sitting across from him at the kitchen table and begging him to tell me what was wrong, what I could do to help, and for the first time mentioning outside help.
I had no idea how bad it was or how bad it was going to be.
Last night I knew I could not trust myself to speak and so as the meditation we silently read Scripture and a litany and then I invited the congregation to share their thoughts... then prayer, then the ashes.
Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return....
I never thought those words would relate to my marriage.
I never thought those words would relate to the committment I made to him.
I never thought Ash Wednesday would be this hard again.