February 13 marks the one month anniversary of Mom’s death, and I find it very appropriate that this anniversary lands on Ash Wednesday: a day when we acknowledge our finitude, dependence upon God, and the reality that from dust we were created and to dust we shall return. While I have been exceedingly aware of finite limits lately, Ash Wednesday continues to be one of my favorite church nerd holidays.
The Wednesday before she died, Mom awoke in the ICU saying had been busy helping get all the chairs and food ready for the Joyful Feast. We were a bit confused by this, as five hours prior she was getting an MRI and was perfectly lucid. She informed us that she hadn’t been sleeping; she was busy helping “Dr. Jesus” give healing to other folks who needed it since she was now cancer free. “What happened to cancer?” I asked. With eyes beaming she proclaimed, “The cancer was sucked out with a vacuum and put in a box that only receives. Then it was zipped, locked, and thrown over the cliff into the fire. It’s gone! It’s in the fire!” She could not wait to share her amazing news with everyone, especially her oncologist.
Thursday when he arrived, she sat straight up in bed, held his face in her hands, told him about her healing, and thanked him for all of his hard work. When she described what happened to her cancer, he replied, “It’s nothing but ashes now. I love it!” She was ecstatic. She was radiant. She was listening to her iPod playlist and singing along and dancing with joy from her ICU bed. As I cried and savored every second of her glee, she said, “Oh, baby girl, there are not enough waters in the world to cascade my tears of joy.”
Nobody was as more done with their earthly body than Carol Masters, and nobody was more excited to have their cancer turned into ashes. So it is fitting on this Ash Wednesday anniversary-while her body has returned to the dust from which she came-we continue to celebrate that the God who forms us out of dust is also capable of making the beast of cancer return to the ash heaps.
And I say oh, oh
Rain don’t change the sun
Jealous is the night when the morning comes
But it always comes
’Cause when I die
I don’t want to rest in peace
I want to dance in joy
I want to dance in the graveyards, the graveyards
And while I’m alive
I don’t want to be alone
Mourning the ones who came before
I want to dance with them some more
Let’s dance in the graveyards
From dust we were all created and to dust we shall all return. And our in-between is full of breaths of new life, sighs too deep for words, and cascades of uncontainable joy. Let’s don the sackcloths in mourning but not linger among the ash heaps. Let’s dance in the graveyards and ICU’s. And let’s continue to make the darkest night jealous of the light of day.