Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

by Ruth Griffiths

My father died recently at age 101. He was a huge part of my life and I miss him every day. But several other people I had known also died this year, and I realized that everyone I meet somehow has an impact on my life, changing it, often in imperceptible ways.

During three decades working with the local newspaper I had some wonderful experiences. I won awards and was recognized locally and nationally for the service work I had done. But when I tell people about the highlights in my career as a journalist, it’s the “people” who made it special. My life is truly rich because of the people whom I met during my work.

Now, in retirement, I continue to meet people through volunteering and in the fitness classes I lead. Each person adds to my life, helping me to build a richer and more complex version of myself. Without the influence of others, beginning with my parents, I would be a single-dimensional person … a very limited version of me.

I tried to think of a metaphor for this concept. I would love to think that my life was like a bouquet of flowers or a painting, but instead I arrived at the thought that my life is like the dust on my kitchen floor!

When I sweep the floor (which isn’t often enough), I am amazed at the collection of detritus that is collected in the dustpan. There’s a flake of rolled oats from breakfast. There’s an apple seed from last night’s snack. There’s a piece of thread from my quilting project. Sadly, the “dust” in the pan is often composed mainly of my own hair and skin cells! (I’m shedding worse than a cat!)

This unappetizing story helps me to explain how other people touch my life. Everything that happens in my kitchen leaves its imprint on the floor. Everyone I meet leaves an imprint on my life, imperceptibly changing me.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” is a funeral phrase that has richer meaning for me when I think about the rich and cumulative nature of dust. We come from “dust”… the rich heritage of our genealogy … and we return to “dust” … the complex compost of the grave. But along the way we acquire a lot of new dust from the host of people who enter our lives.

I am truly grateful for the people who have “dusted” my life.