A Bag of Ashes

I’m kind of known for my strange dreams.  I’m that person that wakes up and wants to tell the first person I see (most often my very patient husband) about what happened in my mind overnight.   Every now and then I have a dream that sticks with me beyond breakfast.  One that asks me to reflect a little deeper.

I had one such dream just the other night.

I was sitting in my house when a hearse pulled up.  I watched from the window as a man, dressed in black jeans and a black hoodie, climbed out of the driver’s seat.  With his hood pulled over his head, he shuffled up our front walk and rang the doorbell.  When I answered, he asked if I was Julianne.  I said yes, and he handed me a large bag and an envelope with my name on it.  I knew, without having to ask, that the bag contained the ashes of someone.  I felt a sense of dread and frantically tried to ask whose remains I held.  The man brushed me off and returned to the hearse. 

I took the bag into my house, feeling the weight of it. Finally, I peeked into it.  It wasn’t remains: it was rich topsoil.  The card attached contained seeds and an explanation that it was for the community garden.  The dread washed away, and I was filled with joy and excitement.  The bag contained what was needed for something new to grow.

I’ve been pondering these images, wondering if they have anything to teach me.

Maybe because we are sitting squarely in the season of Lent, the dream has reminded me that life can come from death, that hope and joy can grow in unusual places. 

Are there things that I have assumed are bad news or dead ends that might hold new life, if I have the courage to look deeper?  Where I have smelled only decay, could something be sprouting?

Are there situations I have given up on or lost hope for that could provide fertile soil for something new, something unexpected? 

Am I willing to take a bag of ashes into my hands or will I only accept gifts that look easy and beautiful?

The seeds and the soil were for the community garden.  Might this remind me of my need of others?  Might this remind me that I am not alone?  Might it remind me that gifts are often meant to be shared, that burdens aren't meant to be carried alone?

The soil and the seeds don’t erase the pain of holding a bag of ashes.  But they might help me find beauty where before I saw only death.