Dressing your Dust
Twice in the last several months I’ve had occasion to tell the tale of the time I stood in front of my late husband’s closet, charged with choosing the clothes in which he’d be buried.
Two days before, this would have been his task.
He’d picked out his own clothes since he was young.
Good Lord, he was still young.
Today it was my task. My absurd job. My surreal chore.
Even this awful request of the funeral director led my mind down paths that should not have been mine. But there I was, standing before that closet while my mind was racing down each of them.
And what difference does it make?
It’s laughable, really, choosing clothes that nothing but the inside of a box will see.
Anyhow, he’ll be cremated, turned back into dust.
Bill won’t be in a coffin for longer than the Memorial Service.
Still….naked, in a coffin?
Somehow that just seems…not right. I can’t for the life of me say why, but it’s not right.
And so there I stood, these thoughts in my mind, these clothes before me, and his body waiting, no choice in the matter, for my selection.
Intake of breath.
If he were here, what would he choose?
Brand new suit?
though he sure looked good in it.
But he was being taken under, and was not the undertaker, I thought. So no suit.
He was not a suit guy. He was the anti-suit guy.
Jeans, then. His favorite jeans.
He was far more organized than I ever will be, so I knew right where to find them.
I kept them perfectly folded as I laid them on the floor.
And hiking boots, of course. Of course hiking boots, still with the dust of the Alps on them.
I set them next to the jeans.
I grinned when I decided on the shirt. I would surely hear it, even all the way from where-ever-he-was, if I didn’t wrap him up in an Ohio State T-Shirt.
“That’s The Ohio State to you,” I could almost hear him say.
Since all the OSU shirts were all his favorites, it took some time to pick the right one, the perfect one for the occasion.
Silly me. Of course it had to be the one emblazoned with TBDBTL.
So jeans, and a TBDBTL t-shirt, and hiking boots.
Is that it? I thought. Anything more?
Something was missing…what was missing….?
His pastoral alb.
He needs his pastoral alb.
And so I reached in to the closet and I found his alb, and I took it, and I held it, and I held it close.
He was so honored to wear that alb.
I took it off the hanger, and I folded it neatly, and placed it on the stack of clothes, and found a bag, and placed his outfit for The Day inside of the bag, and I grabbed the handles, and I walked out the door to bring him his clothes.
Ash Wednesday is next week.
It marks the beginning of spring. That’s what Lent means, in Latin.
It can be a somber time, I suppose.
I know of all the arguments against saying and singing Alleluia on Sundays in Lent.
But as for me, give me the Alleluias.
Every Sunday is an announcement of Easter, after all, of new beginnings, and I firmly believe that it is in the dark that God’s light is most clearly seen…and when we most clearly need to see it.
Just as I say that Holy Saturday is the most honest day, I think Lent is the most honest season: the pivot place between death and life, despair and hope.
It begins with Ash Wednesday, the day of declared dustness.
We are born of dust, and we return to dust.
And that’s just the way it is.
We have no choice about our dustiness.
But we do have choices, in-between.
Like our clothes.
We can choose our clothes.
We can choose what to wear, what to pull on that reveals most fully who we are called to be, that makes it easier to do it and be it.
We can choose the outfits we will slip on, the ones that reveal to all the world, and not just the inside of a box, what our agenda for the day will be.
Sometimes, I think, we reach for something in the closet that isn’t quite right: either the outfit clashes with itself, or the outfit clashes with us.
But when we pull on what’s right, we feel right. When our day is consistent with itself and with ourselves, we feel more than right.
We feel alive.
We are living, breathing, dressed dust, clothed in our outfit for the day.