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Ashes to Ashes…

“Ashes to ashes, dusk to dusk…,” began the pastor at the graveside service.

“Umm… excuse me,” interrupted one of the mourners (the only one there, in fact). “Don’t you mean ‘dust to dust’?”

The pastor looked confused for a moment, before understanding smoothed out the lines of his expression. He smiled warmly at his only living guest.

No, no, no…,” he chuckled quietly. “Why would I wish that fate on anyone?”

“Because that’s the way the service goes…?,” answered the mourner, a touch of snarky in the implied question.

The pastor waved off the comment, his usually placid expression fully restored. “A simple misunderstanding is all. Easy to see why it might happen, though, isn’t it? They sound so similar!…”. He paused for a moment, thinking.

Have you ever played that game where you try passing a word around a circle of people to see how it transforms? I think it’s called Telephone, or something similar. This is kind of like that; someone heard ‘dust to dust’ instead of ‘dusk to dusk,’ and others kind of ran with it.” He smiled again. “A silly game, a silly mistake, but enlightening in the end.”

The lone mourner looked confused now… “Are you serious, pastor?!… No! You can’t be.” His tone sharpened as his sensibilities rebelled against the offense. “A person is dead here! This is no time for jokes or games! How dare you dishonor my great aunt this way!”

Dishonor your aunt?!… Oh my, never!,” he reacted automatically, the mere thought of such completely disorienting the usually serene pastor. “I adored Agnes! She was a wonderful woman, who lived an extraordinary life, right here in this little town! Did you know she never left this place?…” He paused, but no answer came on the warm spring breeze…

I thought not,” added the pastor, smugly. “Well, Agnes, dear soul that she is, believed that this little town was enough. Always. When others grew up and moved away, she stayed. When the man she loved moved to the big city to make a name for himself, she stayed behind, promising to be here if he ever came back… Of course, he never did…” An almost sad sigh slid past the pastor’s lips…

And yet, in spite of all that, I never once heard her complain. She was content here, keeping her parents’ farm going after all the others left. It was a struggle, of course, especially after her parents were gone, but she carried on. That was her way. And if she lost most of the farm over the years, who could blame her? She was alone, and aging, and really… what more could she do?”

The pastor stopped talking. He looked at the young man standing at the grave site. He looked a long time, a thoughtful expression upon his face…

“What?!,” snapped the young mourner. “Why are you staring at me?!”

The pastor sighed deeply. “I was just looking for a trace of your Aunt Agnes in you, but…” He shook his head mournfully. “I’m afraid I just don’t see it. I’m sure she would, of course,” he hastily assured the young man, “but her gift of seeing the truth of others was always stronger than mine. I learned a lot from her over the many years we were friends, but never enough, I guess.”

“But then, isn’t that the point here?…” He waited patiently for a response that would never come. Sighing deeply, he continued…

It’s all about transitions, young man. Birth is a transition, a dawning of a new form. As is death. And it is in those twilight times, when shadow and light begin to balance out, that we see the truth of things. Outlines become stark in the growing and fading light, revealing the boundaries between…”

“Your aunt welcomed this transition, whatever changes it might bring. She was ready to move on into a new form of being. I will miss her, and our time together very much…” A single tear slipped down the pastor’s cheek…

Did you ever get to meet her?,” the pastor asked the mourner.

“Um… well… no, not exactly,” the young man began.

The pastor held up his hand to abruptly end the awkward explanation about to spill from the young man’s lips.

Never mind,” the pastor reassured him. “I understand. You’re here to liquidate what’s left of the farm, and you came to pay your respects. Enough said.” He turned back to the grave and lifted his arms, palms up, as if beginning to pray. The young man bowed his head.

The pastor, realizing this, turned to address the man once more. “It’s ok, son. You’ve done what you came to do; you don’t need to stay any longer. Agnes is still smiling, even if you can’t see her beyond the veil…”

“But if you’re looking for a quick sale, I’m sure the Jones’ will be happy to take the old homestead. That’s pretty much all Agnes had left, and Ned Jones, her neighbor, had bought most of the rest of the farm already. Probably pay a good price for it, too, if you push him. Some developer wants to come in here and build a resort for rich people – you know the type: big houses, a gated community, expensive coffee places, the works…”

The young man hesitated only a moment before nodding curtly and turning away. “Thanks for the tip, pastor. Please carry on…”

Resuming his prayerful stance, the pastor began his service again… “Ahhh, Agnes, you were right, as usual. Everything changes in Time…”

“Ashes to ashes, dusk to dusk…”

(933 words)