Linda Parkyn and her son Nathaniel
Ash Wednesday reminds us of our fleeting time on this earth. On this holy day, I am always struck with awe as the minister rubs the ashes of Holy Week palms on my forehead, saying, Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. But little did I know how the power of these words would impress my son in an unusual way.
When my son, Nathaniel ’04, was 12, he served as the acolyte at his first Ash Wednesday service in our Episcopal parish. He held the ashes as the celebrant uttered those familiar words. As the Lenten season progressed, I didn’t think much more about the service. But my son did.
Possessing a strong arm, Nathaniel was a good baseball player, and that particular spring, he played third base. As I watched his games I noticed that when an opposing teammate made it to third base, Nathaniel would lean over and say something. Each time, the base runner jumped back, a little unnerved as the next play unfolded.
One day, I asked Nathaniel about his third-base verbal exchange. He laughed and said, “Aw, Mom, it’s great. I just look ’em straight in the eyes and say, Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Beyond the baseball field—when spoken on Ash Wednesday by the celebrant who marks my brow with the sign of the cross—these are sacred words. During this holy season, may we keep the power of this phrase in mind—because sometimes in life we all find ourselves on third base waiting to score. And at those very times, a reminder of our fleeting, mortal nature might
be just what we need.
Linda K. Parkyn is a professor of Spanish