Scripture: Matthew 6:25-29
We made custom photo confetti for our wedding reception. It was peak-early 2000s cheesiness. Tiny versions of our engagement photos interspersed among yellow and white bits of paper. It was overkill, but I loved it.
At the end of the reception, we swept up food crumbs and dirt tracked in on people’s shoes, and a fair amount of confetti—little bits of otherwise useless paper we’d intentionally scattered around the room.
On Ash Wednesday people turn their attention to their own mortality. “Dust you are and dust you shall return.” We turn our attention to the frailty and finitude of life, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Death is the one inevitable of life.
I was reminded of that the end of 2019 when a phone call from the doctor jarred my family to face a sobering reality. Tests from my husband’s recent visit came back abnormal. Follow-ups were needed. Hours spent in hospital waiting rooms while experts tried to tell us if and how soon we would be facing the inevitability of death. It turns out, if things stay on their current trajectory, we won’t face death anytime soon, but those months spent waiting on phone calls, and waiting on test results, and waiting…waiting…waiting prompted me to think about how I spend those days of waiting.
If death is inevitable, then today had better count. But I can’t “make it count” in grandiose ways worthy of Hallmark movies or front-page news stories. How do I make the days count while still responding to emails and packing lunches? Tim McGraw may have gone sky diving and Rocky Mountain climbing, but what about those of us for whom living like we are dying still means sitting in rush hour traffic and hoping for short lines at the grocery store?
In the face of concern about the future, Jesus directed the gaze of the crowd toward flowers and fowl.
Consider the lilies, they don’t sew or spin but are clothed magnificently.
Consider the birds, they don’t plant or harvest, but are fed and cared for.
I would add, consider the confetti at the party, in any other circumstance throwing bits of paper around a room would be considered a mess, but when it’s a mess made with intention, it’s a celebration.
The measure of our days is rarely determined in the mind-boggling adventures some are fortunate enough to embark upon. Rather, when we remember the lives of those we love it is often the small, simple ways they went about the world that live on in our memories.
Like the way my grandfather always had a giant canister of popped popcorn ready for snacking or the way my grandmother taught me to look closely at the soft, new grass in the springtime, looking for violets peeking up their vibrant purple heads.
Confetti is just dust with an intention, dust that goes about its day knowing it’s adding something to the festivities—even if it’s simply a little sparkle.
In his novel, Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami writes “I can’t think about [death.] I don’t even know how I’m going to live.”
I have brushed far too close with death this year to have much interest in marking myself with ashes. I know I and everyone I love are returning to the dust. Some of us sooner than is rational or fair. What I want to focus on instead is trying to be intentional dust—like confetti—with the days I have.
To ask the cashier how they are doing, when the lines in the grocery store are long.
To relish in deep breaths when the air is finally warm enough outside it no longer freezes my lungs on the way in.
To say “yes” to more snuggles and one more hug when my child requests them.
To say “yes” to resting and taking space when my body tells me that’s what she needs.
Those bits of paper, photo confetti from our wedding, are long since disposed of and decaying in a landfill. Dust to dust. But the middle bit, the hours spent as dust intentionally scattered to bring sparkle and celebration and joy, that’s the part I am holding on to this Wednesday.
In full view of death, walking a path contrary to that of my own looks like showing up with intention to life. Trusting the small things matter, or at least that their frivolity is not completely in vain. This year, I can’t think about death, because I’m still not sure how I’m going to live. And I can exert will over only one of those things.