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.


  1. IT on February 9, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    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.

  2. Maureen on February 10, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    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 ��,

  3. Elizabeth Kaeton on February 10, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    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.

  4. Tricia Gates Brown on February 10, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    Thank you for this, Ann. Sending love. Tricia

  5. Georgia DuBose on February 10, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    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.

  6. Karen Meridith on February 10, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    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.

  7. Christina Brennan Lee on February 14, 2018 at 3:38 am

    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!

  8. Dan on February 14, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    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!

  9. Audene Jay on February 14, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Oh Ann
    Ann full of grace
    So hard the leaving

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

    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.

  10. michael Hanley on February 14, 2018 at 5:54 pm

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

  11. Jenifer on February 14, 2018 at 6:02 pm

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

  12. madelinebialecki on February 15, 2018 at 3:11 am

    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."

  13. Barbara W. Gray on February 15, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    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.

  14. June Butler on February 15, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    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

  15. Dan on March 5, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    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

  16. SCG on March 5, 2018 at 11:51 pm

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

  17. Ann on March 30, 2018 at 1:36 am

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

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