I think I got hypothermia last year.
It happened on Ash Wednesday, a bitterly cold day in 2016. I wore so many layers that my usually oversized alb (the white robe pastors wear to represent baptism) barely stayed closed with its decrepit Velcro pieces. But on my hands I could only manage mittens- the kind that have a flap to cover one’s fingers when necessary. They were convenient when I was called upon to smudge ashes on people’s foreheads, but it was so cold that day that the ashes almost froze, and my fingers actually did.
And so it happened that this Ash Wednesday I wore another pair of gloves beneath those mittens. The day was not as cold as last year, thankfully, but a soft snow fell, reminding us of the words from Psalm 51 used on Ash Wednesday: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be cleaner than snow.” Not as many people stopped to receive ashes and the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” but I found that I was filled with the same awe at those who did. I found that I was filled with the same humility as I always feel when I mark people’s heads with that ashen cross. I found that I was impressed with those who asked what in the world I was doing there, letting their curiosity have some voice. I found that I was especially grateful to stand face-to-face with a student I hadn’t seen for quite some time…that she sought me out once she found out I was positioned at the gazebo on her campus…that she sighed with such deep gratitude and contentment that I almost lost my own breath.
And I found that my fingers tingled at the first hint of cold, reminding me of those holy words and this holy moment, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Remember you are loved, and to Love you shall return.” Remember. Remember.
Pastor Corrine Haulotte