Wednesday, 27 February 2013

We Are Dust and to Dust We Shall Return

I have just returned after being in Toronto for a week. Lorna is still there with her mother who broke her leg at the hip and had it operated on but is not doing very well at present. While we were with her in hospital the frailty of human life was very evident. One of the many thoughts that came to mind was a poem ‘The Deacon’s One Horse Shay’ which I heard when I was in school. Although I had heard it only once and my memory of when exactly I heard it – I think I was in grade five of six but I wouldn’t swear to it – it stuck in my memory. You may not be familiar with it – Lorna wasn’t – so here is a synopsis of the plot. The deacon believes that things wear out because of a weakness in one of the components. This weakness – the fatal flaw - leads to strain on other part and causes it to break down. The deacon decides to deal with this by building every part of a shay (carriage) using the finest of materials for every component. He does this and his theory seems to be born out as time passes and there is no sign of aging. This goes on until the century mark when the riding along the deacon finds himself on the ground with nothing but a mound of dust around him. Looking it up on the internet I find that it was written by none other than Oliver Wendell Homes.

It made an impression on me at the time and I remember it after all these years. As I age and see what the ravages of time can do to people I wonder why God didn’t make people – his greatest creation - in the same way as the one horse shay? It seems like a more human way of return to the dust from which we came. I’m sure those slings and arrows of outrageous insult our bodies give us as we age have a positive aspect but right now it escapes me. However, this seems to be an appropriate memory for Lent and Ash Wednesday not too long passed.

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