Today is March 1st and Ash Wednesday. The pastors at our church, FCCOG, tried something new this morning. They stood out in front of the church and performed blessings and the distribution of ashes. They called it "Ashes to Go" and it was quite successful for a first year venture. (Good job guys!) In a community where many people commute by car and train into New York City, time is of the essence and efficiency is valued. In addition, the simple act of a touch and a prayer can change a day, but I digress.
We walk to school each morning and we stopped by for a "to-go" blessing from dad on the way to school. My 6 year old was anxious about having ashes on his forehead for school. I could see that he was worried about hurting his dad's feelings. He didn't want them on his head (he doesn't like to be dirty) but he didn't want his dad to be disappointed in him. I received mine and in the end, he balked and decided he was not interested. About halfway down the driveway of the church, he wavered. I told him this was his last chance to run up and have dad do it for him. He said a teary, "no thank you." About 20 yards later, he was still visibly upset and I asked him if he wanted me to do it. He looked confused but said, "sure". With traffic whizzing by next to us, I rubbed my thumb against the mark on my forehead and I said a quiet blessing and made the cross just below his hairline. I took a picture and showed him what it looked like. It was a light smudge of a cross on his little forehead. He nodded and walked on.
As we walked, I pushed his brothers in the double stroller and he and I talked. He was worried his dad would say, "what? You let your mom do ashes but not me?" That began a conversation about blessings. We talked about how a mother is always allowed to perform blessings for her children. How people can bless others every day. It can mean doing something nice or just smiling at someone, using nice words, or being kind. I told him that every day when he goes off to school, I chant a Sanskrit blessing for him and each of his brothers. I do three for each boy. I began doing this with encouragement from a yoga teacher/mentor/friend, Jessie. I sang it for him this morning "Aad Guray Nameh, Jugaad Guray Nameh, Sat Guray Nameh, Siri Guroo Dayvay Nameh." I visulaize protection, love, happiness, and health surrounding my child. I see it as a colored gentle breeze or wrap enveloping them. I told him that I send it to him in my mind. I explained to him that moms hope good things for their children and that is just like a blessing. I reminded him that ashes that touched my forehead and then his were very special.
And then we returned to discussion of the construction of the train station, the names of the pizza places in town, how many fire trucks fit in the local fire station, and why people put flowers in boxes in front of their stores. Daily, comfortable, ordinary questions from a kindergartner.
"From dust you came and from dust you shall return."
There is something there that I can't quite articulate. Emmett is an actual part of me. He is half me and he carries my heart with him. Our family jokes that he and I share a brain. He is also a child of God, an overused cliche that felt so true in that moment. I felt like the combination of my thumbprint (both metaphoric as well as literal), my love, the ashes that were transferred from my forehead to his, and the love of God wrapped this little boy in a safe blanket.
There are some who may frown upon a lay person performing this type of sacrament. I don't apologize, not for a second. An opportunity for a beautiful moment with any of my children is always welcomed, whether through prayer, blessings, play, exploration, or quiet moments just before bed. I soak them up and hope my boys do too.