Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday.

"Dust we are and to dust we shall return." --Genesis 3:19, Psalm 90:3

When I'm an old lady, like 95 years old and still pierced and inked, trotting around (I've told friends already--if I get to the point where I need a walker or a wheelchair, just put me out of my misery and shoot me or let me die of lysteria after drinking out of the Ganges River), and I come to my dying day, my son, at age 12, already knows what to do with me.

I think the above verse, prominent in tonight's Ash Wednesday service, is a FANTASTIC advertisement for the act of cremation, which is my wish. I know I've blogged about this before, and it's doubtful I'll ever change my mind. I don't want a public viewing of my corpse, or a traditional Lutheran funeral...

...unless it's like my late father-in-law's offbeat Presbyterian funeral, which I have on DVD if anyone wants to see it (I should probably give that back to Craig someday if he doesn't already have it). THAT was a send-off, by golly to a guy I loved to, well, DEATH. It was a Dixieland Jazz funeral, and Craig's dad, the late Rev. Dr. J. Gordon Bechtel, was the minister at the church. It was certainly sad and a sudden, an awful loss for our family, but as funerals go, it rollicked. Presbyterians don't do wakes, which was fine by me, as aforementioned. It was upbeat and celebrated the man's life with a delicate mixture of grieving, which was appropriate. But mostly, we celebrated Gordon's life and love and what he contributed to the world. Too many funerals are such downers, ya know?

Luke knows I want a memorial service with lots of music that celebrates who I was in my life. The woman I ultimately became. Filled with people who loved me, people I helped (i.e any of my patients), my grandchildren, anybody whose life I touched in a positive way. Stuff I loved. Bible verses I highlighted in my confirmation Bible. "My Sweet Lord" with the chants to Krishna left in it. Somebody competent to do a drum and percussion solo. Don't send flowers. Donate money to my favorite charities, whatever they may be when I'm an old hag. Don't make casseroles and take them to Luke's house. He's not nuts about casseroles and his wife'll handle it.

I'm learning to slowly shake the deep fear I have that I will die young. I know exactly where it comes from--it's from losing a parent who was young when he died. Losing other loved ones before their time. Losing one of my best friends at age 42 (the same age my dad died, ironically). Enduring poor health. Too much heavy fun, as my ex-junkie friends and I call it. Kate asked me recently how old I want to live to. I told her something like "I dunno, 85-90, something like that." She thought that was a crucial detail in my psychological makeup.

Anyway, tonight, we heard from the Pastor that "Ashes remind us of our human frailty and mortality. You (God) are eternal, but we are limited in our days." That's certainly true, which is why I just wrote the paragraphs above. But, as we learned in church tonight, ashes also remind us of our condemnation for sin (for which we were communally forgiven, woot!), our dependence on God, our humiliation and repentance. The church and Pastor were donned in black--black paremants (those fabric thingys hanging off the altar and pulpit and on Pastor's robe), which I could've sworn in the past (of couse I swore in the past!) were solely used on Good Friday.

We started learning about Jonah, one of God's prophets, whose story I admittedly have forgotten since my days at St. Paul Lutheran School, who's got a whole book of the Bible that I admittedly haven't read in like 30 years. But what I got out of the sermon tonight was that he was kind of a cocky fucktard who ignored God calling to him directly and sat on his big boat and vegged out for a while instead of doing what God wanted him to do. I gathered that he ultimately got cool with God (cool enough to get a book in the Bible), but it was a tough road as a prophet. I'm not a prophet by any stretch, but I ignore God when He's screaming in my face on many an occasion. When he's making things blatantly obvious to me, and I'm off being my own cocky fucktard. Everyone at church calls me Job, the dude who survived immeasurable suffering and pain and never lost his faith in God, and that's sort of me, but the more I learn about Jonah's disposition, the more I relate to him.

The photo above shows the ashes I received tonight at church. I wanted to be in Pastor's line, as there were 2 lines in the front of the church, one with Pastor and one with an Elder of the church. I tried to position myself in Pastor's line but I messed up the whole circus and Luke was like 20 feet ahead of me in the Elder line, and I gave up and got in what I like to call the "Smudge Line." Pastor was imprinting lagniappe crosses on his set of foreheads and I looked like I'd spent the afternoon working at Jiffy Lube. It's semantics, though, as I wasn't up there to "look good," I was there to repent and be humble before God, reminded of all those things I mentioned above. When we got back to the pew, I looked at Luke and Ma, and sure enough, they too had smudges instead of crosses, looking jealously over at Pastor's side of the church. Not only all of that, but I connect with Pastor, and felt it would be more special to get my ashes from him instead of random Mike the Elder who I think is kinda strange.

I texted my Tatus the picture of my smudge, and told him I wondered if the smudge was payback for all the Hindu rantings, chants out loud at home that drive Luke insane, and how I downloaded the Bhagavad Gita onto my smartphone before I downloaded the Holy Bible. Hell, if I was Catholic and ever got to be a patron saint, which would be unlikely since, for starters, I see no point in repetitiously saying Hail Marys in exchange for your forgiveness, I'd probably be the Patron Saint of People Who Uttered The F-Word Too Much and Was Known For Running Out of the Sanctuary Yelling "Hare Krishna!"

What's with Catholic confession, anyway? You confess all the sins you've committed and the priest sits there and ranks them in order of their eminent evilness and then tells you God will forgive you if you say, for example, 14 "Our Fathers" (we call it "The Lord's Prayer") and 128 "Hail Marys" and then your sins will be forgiven. But they rank sins, as if one sin is worse than another. It doesn't matter if you took the Lord's name in vain, committed adultery, ran over a squirrel whilst driving to work and didn't apologize to anyone for it, or if you were John Wayne Gacy. Sin is sin is sin, and, at least we Lutherans, believe that if you truly repent of your sins and honestly ask God's forgiveness, you will receive it, no matter how awful that sin may or may not have been. I just can't wrap my head around that whole bag.

Don't even get me started on the whole concept of KARMA.

So by this time tomorrow, my Tatus by my side, I will have 2 tattoos, one of the Sanskrit symbol of the "OM" and the other, the Christian cross, as I said in the blog "Cuts You Up," drawn by my late favorite artist, George Harrison. Friends, family and fellow Christians (and my brother) are susurrous over the whole OM thing, because the OM is the most important Hindu symbol in their religion, which is why it's used as a mantra by so many Hindus. But to me, it's just something in Sanskrit that means exactly what it means: oneness with God, a connection in your soul with God, and is smaller and more tasteful than tattooing "My soul is connected with God" across my whole arm. Wanting the cross? Oh, everybody supports that. I could tattoo crosses all over my body and nobody would look at me weirdly. But a HINDU symbol? CALL THE HEAVENLY GUARDS, ONE IS ESCAPING OVER THE GIANT WALL! SHOOT ON SIGHT WITH ANGELIC DARTS!

We went over this when I first started blogging again. In those blogs, I said that *I* believed God was God was God, with many faces and many names, though I am a practicing Christian and believe personally that Christ is indeed my savior. I just don't discount the cultural validity of other world religions and their place in contemporary society and also historically. So if any of you think I'm going to Hell for my permanent OM on the wrist, YOU need to listen to Christ a little harder. Christ taught acceptance and understanding, not exclusion and uppity-ness and egotism about Him being the Son of God.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which will explore the theory that George Harrison accepted Christianity shortly before his death. There's a lot floating around that suggests that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating and illuminative blog, as always. Waiting to hear not only more about George, but also about Presbyterian funerals. I attended one myself 4 weeks ago. It was good. Maybe you had to be there -- but it was good. Check my FB page for an example: you'll know the photo when you see it.

(PS. Just for old times sake, I'm going to sign this as Miss Thang II)