We traveled to Dublin for my father’s 80th birthday party today. It was at Wendy’s; and it was at breakfast. And it would have consisted of the typical biscuits and bacon and what-passes-for-eggs except that one of my parent’s friends named Alma had baked a coconut cake. But I just couldn’t eat coconut cake at breakfast . . . but my father loves coconut cake.
Seeing him at breakfast this morning, it is hard to believe that my father is 80 years old. We went to my parents’ home and sat with him while we watched the children play. I gazed around at pictures of my father ten and fifteen years ago. He didn’t look much different then than he does now. But today his arthritis is awful and painful. And even if he could move about without pain, he would be out of breath due to the pulmonary fibrosis. These conditions were part of the reason we moved back to middle Georgia from the Savannah area.
My mother was not able to be with us for all of the morning. A local friend of theirs, and distant relative, died recently. And my mother who has played the organ for over 40 years at the church where I grew up, she was called on to play for the funeral. My wife said to her, “It must be hard to play for your friends and family’s funerals.” My mother answered, “I just think of it as one more thing I can do for them.”
And as I sit with my children and wife across the table from my aging mother and father, I know that they too are not permanent in this world. None of us are.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. In churches where this day is observed, a cross of ashes is placed on the forehead of those who come forward. And the words, “From dust you came and to dust you shall return,” are spoken. These words are a call to repent. These words are a call to remember what is important and valuable in our lives. These words remind us of sin and mourning. These words remind us that it is easy to dwell on what will not matter in the end. These words are true.
And as I sat across from my parents, seeing my one-year-old and two-year-old argue over who got to sit in Grammy’s lap, that particular moment seemed important . . . and it was . . . even if it too was fleeting . . . like dust.