Life from Ashes

 At 3:06AM on March 6th, a scream ripped through a small sterile room. The woman lying on the operating table never thought she would be there: legs double-strapped down, a blue tarp suspended over her head, her body convulsing as the hormones raced and swirled and left her. Like so many things, this was not what she had pictured. And like so many things, ultimately, it didn’t matter. The scream was good — proof of working lungs and a long labor brought to an end.

Ash Wednesday

What is the meaning of life on such a day? Brought into a world that is broken on the day that serves as a reminder of the death of all things. Better to be born on Resurrection Sunday! New life on the day of New Life! I continue to wonder what the significance of an Ash Wednesday birth will have on this life that is currently curled up on my chest while I type around her.

Lent has had a unique place in my life since I first started observing it. I didn’t grow up in a church tradition that practiced Lent, and my ignorance of its value was clear when I thought giving up things like chocolate was supposed to mimic Christ’s sacrifice. Only later, after college, did I realize it wasn’t supposed to be the same as Christ’s sacrifice, but to be a constant reminder of that most sacred gift, and the season of lament began to hold new meaning for me.

There have been Lents that broke me. Or, perhaps, it is that I was already in mourning and the church calendar lined up to allow me to grieve. I have appreciated the coinciding of cold, dark days with lament, and I have read daily devotionals, prayed daily prayers, given up daily distractions. I have mourned the loss of relationships, prayed for the strengthening of others, and sought Christ’s transformation in myself.

There are so many things to be worked out in the active intentionality that Lent provides.

There are so many things to be waited on in the rest and contemplation that Lent demands.

This Lent, however, is starkly different.

Her eyes are almond shaped. She has her grandmother’s lips. Her favorite thing is to stretch her little limbs as far as she can and move as much as possible. She does not like to be swaddled, and she loves to look out windows.

Life doesn’t always line up with the meaning of days. Sometimes you miscarry on Easter. Sometimes you bury your grandfather on the most beautiful sunshine-filled day in August.

This year, my Lent looks like wonder. Wonder at this tiny human who was once inside me and is now outside me. She was born on Ash Wednesday — for dust you are and to dust you will return — and her birth meant no ashes, no church for me. Her birth on the day of ashes didn’t even factor into her name, and yet Evangeline seems the only name for a baby born on this day: Bringer of Good News.

It seems to me there is no better vocation, no better blessing.

[Photo credit: Gabe Knell]

10 Replies to “Life from Ashes”

  1. Oh Catherine, thank you so much for the beautiful story of the coming of Evangeline into the world. She is such a beautiful little girl and a grand addition to the life of you and Gabe. The picture of you and Evangeline reminds me of the changes that come into our lives to cuddle, love, laugh, and make you understand what life is truly all about. For me, bridging the time line from my birth to now with the great grandnieces and nephews who will make the future is so important. Thank you for your thoughts on Ash Wednesday, Easter, and guiding future life. Thank you for your article. It truly warms my heart. Love, your loving great uncle Alan

    1. Thank you so much, Uncle Alan. Auntie and I were just talking today about the importance of having old pictures of passed loved ones up in the house — not only to remember them ourselves, but to teach our children their story. Evangeline will know hers, I promise.

  2. Oh Catherine, Evangeline is beautiful! I love reading your thoughts about motherhood. Enjoy these precious days with your newborn. Congratulations!!

  3. Congratulations to you and Gabe, what a perfectly beautiful, precious daughter you have, with a beautiful name. Thank you for sharing your story, as always, so thought-provoking and interesting! Enjoy this precious time together!! The world and everything in it will hold so much more joy through Evangeline’s eyes.

    1. I love your last line: “The world and everything in it will hold so much more joy through Evangeline’s eyes.” What a beautiful way to look at it!

  4. My heart aches with joy and pleasure. What a poignant reflection. I’m glad you linked us to older words from a younger you…beautiful to read your voice in a few incarnations. You are a treasure, dear Catherine.

    1. I didn’t even realize how much the Lenten season had led to writing until I went back. This space serves as a reminder of what was, but also as hope for what might come.

  5. I am so touched to read this and to see your beautiful little baby, and such a happy you. I can’t wait to see the both of you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.