One of the great privileges of being a priest is that I often get the opportunity to be with people when they die. It frequently astonishes me that, despite the ubiquity of death, this is something a great many people have never actually seen. Little wonder we’re so frightened of death. It used to be something public, but now it’s pushed out of life. Whereas we used to die at home surrounded by friends and family, we now die in hospitals, often alone and hidden behind expensive technology….
Today is Ash Wednesday. Like millions of Christians around the world, I will be marked with ash and told that I am dust and to dust I shall return. There is nothing depressing or morbid about any of this – in fact, quite the reverse. Personally speaking, it leaves me with a more intense sense of the preciousness of human life, something that’s intimately bound up with its intrinsic limit and fragility.