For many reasons, I never have. This somber reminder remains beautiful to me, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." For the record, the only reaction of the first child I offered ashes to was a question to his dad, "Do I look cool with this on my forehead?"
Even on its not so great days, the church is pretty decent at telling truth. We may not see some of what we out to see about ourselves, but we have this story of deep, last Truth that we've been telling for centuries. We cease to exist without it.
And so, on this day, we say softly to one another this deep truth: "You are dust and to dust you shall return." It is not threat nor promise; it is reality. Even apart from the stories of Genesis, we are sustained by the earth on which we walk. Without dirt, we do not eat. The presence of chemicals may delay our return to the earth. It does not prevent it.
This truth we share mocks so many lies that we are told. I live in the land of active and vibrant 55+ communities, because heaven forbid we grow old. One is named Leisure World, and only the teenagers laugh at our mortality, calling it Seizure World instead. It fits well in a world where gym membership and diet advertisements are now year round instead of for the first few weeks of the year. I often see inspiration of people who started running in their fifties or weight training in their sixties. I affirm that this improves the quality of their lives and likely extends their life. It will not, beyond a shadow of a doubt, make them immortal.
We are dust, and to dust we shall return.
If I were to add anything to that claim, I would add, "And that's a good thing."
It is good to be just like everyone else in at least one deep, unending way.
It is good for our lives to be forever linked to the matter all around us.
It is good for us to know the world neither begins nor ends with us.
It is good, this promise that we are not all-powerful.
It is so very good that we are dust from beginning to end.
Let us take a few minutes to remember this good.