None of these quotes were originally about Ash Wednesday. But all of them deeply speak to the truth of the day.
A few preliminary thoughts about where we are headed tomorrow…
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. … Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
— Steve Jobs
from a Commencement Speech at Stanford University
“In many cases, people who’ve become aware of their mortality find that they’ve gained the freedom to live. They are seized with an appreciation for the present: every day is my best day; this is my life; I’m not going to have this moment again. They spend more time with the things and people they love and less time on people and pastimes that don’t offer love or joy. This seems like such a simple thought– shouldn’t we all spend our lives that way? But we tend not to make those kinds of choices until somebody says, “You have twelve months to live.””
— Dr. Bernie Siegel
from Handbook for the Soul
“A caption for a photograph: A man sitting on a folding chair in a cemetery, as a light rain fell and the sun shone at the same time, on the first day of summer in 1994.
If you were there, standing close by, you would notice that the sod beneath his chair was laid down in small square sections, suggesting it had been removed and then carefully replaced.
The man owns the property upon which he sits. He has paid for the site, paid to have the ground dug up, to have a cement vault installed, and to have the ground restored.
He is sitting on his own grave. Not because his death is imminent — he’s in pretty good shape, actually. And not because he was in a morbid state of mind — he was in a fine mood when the picture was taken. In fact, while sitting there on his own grave, he has had one of the most affirmative afternoons of his life.
Sitting for an afternoon on his own grave, he has had one of those potent experiences when the large pattern of one’s life is unexpectedly reviewed: the past, birth, childhood, adolescence, marriage, career, the present, and the future. He has confronted finitude — the limits of life. The fact of his own death lies before him and beneath him — raising the questions of the when and the where and the how of it. What shall he do with his life between now and then?”
— Robert Fulghum
from From Beginning to End