No, there is another name for this anomaly. Some have dubbed it "wedding fever." Over the past few months I have come to affectionately refer to it as "open bar season." Call it what you will, but for me it has meant having to attend an extra-ordinary amount of weddings this year.
In just under eight months I have attended five weddings — all in different states and one on a different continent. Just a year ago I hadn't been to more than two weddings in my entire life. Now I'm supporting half the wedding industry. What's the deal people? Did Tiffany & Co. contaminate our drinking water?
I don't mean to be snarky, but watching all these couples take "the big step" has been more than a little overwhelming; because the thing about weddings is, like funerals, you're less likely to think about the persons whose day it is as you are to think about yourself.
Sitting at the reception table tonight, I realized that since my Dad passed away last summer I have had to endure five fathers walking their daughters down the aisle; five father-daughter dances; and five proud-father toasts to a happy wedded life. It's really enough already; remembering hurts.
I may be wrong, but I think this is how some of us feel about Ash Wednesday: Why do I have to be reminded that I am going to die? It's uncomfortable and depressing.
In The Mystery of Death, Dorothee Sollee says remembering our finitude feels akin to sojourning into a strange and unfamiliar land. During Lent we are nomads, wandering in the desert of our mortality, continually in search of a safe place to call home. What we want is a land where the memory of death grows dim, but Ash Wednesday demands that we stop and feel our way around the wilderness of death for a while.
Lest we forget, the bible tells us that Abraham does not return to the land of his ancestors, Moses never enters the land of Canaan, and as soon as the ancient Israelites feel secure in the possession of their land they loose it to the Babylonians and end up in exile.If we are honest, the human experience is one of never feeling like we are quite at home.
Sollee goes on to say that reflecting on our mortality is an essential part of what it means to be human. Remembering is essential because it saves us from the numbing of denial and frees us from passively leading a static and unexamined life.
For me, being reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return in the lead up to Easter, feels a bit like the unwelcome reminder of death at a wedding. It's unsettling and out of place. In fact, it hurts like hell. But as a friend said shortly after my dad's death:
Hang in there and remember that in the darkest moments our God is the light who leads us through. Even in the hardest times when the light seems to flicker & waver, it is never extinguished, even if we struggle to see it. That light heals the broken hearted, but not in an instant, as it honours the love which caused the brokenness.So, I decide to receive the ashes and to wear them in fearful humility. And I try to remember how the darkness honors the love that's been lost.
I remember because it's better than forgetting.