Today, for those who are able to, many will go to have ashes signed onto their forehead.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and our very first reminder is that we are made of the dust of the Earth and to the dust we shall we return.
Our mortality, at least the mortality of the body, is a reality with which we all live. The eventually decline and ending of our vital processes is a solidified, guaranteed fact of life. Ash Wednesday helps us to remember that. Ash Wednesday reminds us that we will eventually transition from this form, from this reality, into another.
Whether the eventual form we take after the transition to the next chapter is something we would recognize while still in the body is up for debate.
One thing is for sure: hearing the stories from hospice nurses and others who deal with people on the brink of passing on is an incredible comfort. People often begin seeing the next world before they fully transition, and it's almost always peaceful and a matter of seeing relatives who have passed on.
I am hopeful, indeed, one day for a peaceful death myself. But death does mean we can't return to this form, to this world, to this moment. We must accept the preciousness of the day, of the moment, and do our best while in this world.