Larry and Ash Wednesday


(I will be reposting this each Ash Wednesday.)

My late son Larry always seemed to enjoy Ash Wednesday.  Two years ago in 2013 I went up with him to receive ashes.  He heard the traditional admonition:  “Remember man thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” and had the ashes placed on his forehead.  He then did the normal circle turn that he did after receiving Communion, and we went back to our pew.

Little did we know that this would be Larry’s last Ash Wednesday.  He died in the wee hours of Pentecost in 2013 of a seizure.  (On that dreadful date I said to my wife that one of the greatest gifts God has given us in this life is our inability to see the future.)  Now Larry’s physical body is well on its way back to dust, awaiting the Resurrection when it will be reunited with his soul.

Larry is now in the land which knows not Ash Wednesday, but only Eternal Easter, and we are left to experience this Ash Wednesday without him.  I have always found Ash Wednesday to be a bleak day and it will be much bleaker yet without my son.  However, Ash Wednesday, like death, is not the end, but merely a beginning.  As Ash Wednesday is the portal to Easter, death is the portal to eternal life. 

Saint Paul noted almost 2000 years ago that if our hope in Christ was limited to this life only that Christians were the most pitiable of men, and that those who slept in Christ would then be the deadest of the dead.  Our hope, however, is not limited to this brief sojourn through this Vale of Tears.  Christ taught us to call God Father to remind us all that we are children of a loving God.  His resurrection revealed to us that God’s mercy and love is not limited to this world, but is for all eternity to those who love God and our neighbor.

Larry, I am confident, now enjoys the Beatific Vision.  During his 21 and three-quarters years on Earth we loved him and cared for him to the best of our ability.  Now he enjoys the eternal promise of Easter.  Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality, but it also directs our minds and souls to what lies beyond death, and that is what I will remember as I receive the ashes and hear again,    “Remember man thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”, and I am sure, that while I can not see him, Larry will be doing his turn of joy at that moment.

Larry McClarey


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  1. Donald, you must miss Larry dearly.
    My prayers for you, your wife and family. Larry will be enjoying the Beatific Vision indeed.

  2. Dear Donald R. – Many of us have children and grandchildren who – for now – to us are “lost,” but their presence in Heaven is one thing that keeps me going, trying to be good here to shorten my stay in purgatory, and wanting to be with God [and them] for all eternity. They are there now because of His will and I ask Him to let them help me to say, and mean it, Thy Will Be Done. And I dearly want that to include hugging them, dancing with them, and learning the nicknames they have come up with for me as Daddy and Grandad. God bless you and your family and hold all of you safe in the palm of His hand until you hug Larry again. Guy McClung, San Antonio.

  3. Thank you Guy. Larry being on the other side removed from me whatever small residual fear of death I had, since I know a joyous reunion, please God, will be ours after I go through the gate of death.

  4. Thank you.
    Our girls had the first Ash Wednesday where they understood we were going to go up, although their reaction was… well, let’s say there was a lot of totally inappropriate to “you are dust, and unto dust you will return” smiling, and trying to explain it for a five and three year old without being scary* is an interesting exercise in theology. Ended up going with the sackcloth and ashes version, so “it means we’re really, really sorry for doing bad stuff, and to remind us to try to fix it.”
    *my impulse was to be very literal, and “that means you’re going to die” is NOT something that one should tell a very imaginative five year old, much less a three year old who is sure there are monsters in the dark. It WILL be translated as “really soon now.”

  5. Mr. McClarey, I have been reading your blog frequently over the last year and I appreciate your point of view. I, too, had to experience this Ash Wednesday without my son. He had a heart condition, and unexpectedly left us on May 1st of last year. He couldn’t wait to get to Heaven, and always talked about the things he “would ask God when I get to Heaven.” I, too, am confident that he has asked God many of those things (though I doubt he’s had time to ask them all). He was only ten, and this is the greatest struggle I have ever endured. I take great comfort in the fact that I am able to share some of our Blessed Mother’s sufferings and that our Catholic faith helps me to see a greater meaning in suffering. I look forward to the day of our joyful reunion, and pray for God’s mercy. God bless you and your family as your continue to bear this cross.

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