This blog post is part of a series that I began for telling our story. You can read the first post here.
I originally wrote this post on Ash Wednesday of 2012, one year or so after our daughter was born. The thoughts expressed here are the ones I still have to this day.
Today is Ash Wednesday. Unlike many of the other posts related to this day, I’m not getting into a discussion about sin, Lent, fasting, or ashes. This post isn’t particularly holy. It’s about my daughter (isn’t it always?).
Lent has always been something I observed. As a life-long Lutheran, it’s been part of my consciousness for as long as I could remember. But this year it has so much more meaning to me. While Samantha’s birthday isn’t until March, I have this intertwining of her life (her healthy life) with the season of Lent. You see, last year, she was born the day after Ash Wednesday.
I remember it well, because originally she was going to be born ON Ash Wednesday. The doctor had talked about inducing me that day, but we asked her to put it off by one day so that Travis could still lead services. So on Ash Wednesday evening, I was moved from the antenatal floor to labor and delivery. They started the process of induction that evening, with plans that Samantha would be born the next day. As it turned out, I had a C-section because my body wasn’t cooperating with induction. But that’s beside the point. Last year’s Lenten journey for me was the journey of being a mother. I joked about how I “gave up sleep for Lent.” In a lot of ways, I did. Sleep is a rarity with a newborn in the house. And while I was exhausted, I was also enthralled with this tiny little girl. Each night as I woke multiple times to feed her, I’d feel grumpy and frustrated right up until I started feeding her. Then somehow I’d calm and just enjoy the time with her, especially her goofy stretching as she twisted and turned her head before latching. She loved eating and her eyes would just light up with joy whenever I was getting ready to feed her. She’d cry, but only in these short bursts that were her way of saying “Now! I want to eat NOW!” Then she’d latch on by clamping down, almost flinging herself onto me.
I realized the other day when I walked into the church that I hadn’t seen our purple paraments (altar cloths) before. At first I was confused, wondering why they were so unfamiliar to me. And then I realized that I didn’t go to church at all during Lent last year. Samantha was a preemie, so we waited until her due date to take her out, and the only time we took her to church before she got sick was on Palm Sunday. She got sick two days later.
While March 10th holds the most significance for me on the calendar, today also feels a bit like her birthday to me. I don’t know how to explain it, but the church year and Samantha’s life will be forever entwined for me. She was born at the beginning of Lent, got sick during holy week, was baptized on Maundy Thursday, and turned a corner on Easter in terms of the immediate danger for her life. And if I’m not mistaken, the last Sunday we took her to church was Pentecost.
As the ashes are placed on my forehead tonight, the words will be spoken “remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” I can’t help but remember that my children are already ashes and dust, and yet they are redeemed, forgiven, and restored. I can’t explain how all of that can be true at the same time, but I know that it is. That is all that matters.
Next post coming tomorrow.