"... From ashes, to ashes ..." the young priest echoes from the front of the auditorium. His African heritage flavors his well-spoken English and his white robe is a stark compliment to his rich, dark skin. His face shines - not the type from sweat but the kind deeply polished metals make when reflecting light. His eyes are bright - even from the back of the room.
From some reason I notice the floor: thin, vanilla colored wooden panels, scuffed from years of middle school basketball games and proud parents edging seats forward to catch sight of their children during earnest plays and excited graduations.
The priest continues: "... Ashes ... ashes ..."
We all fall down.
My mind makes the connection easily. The children's song - a song of death - has a fitting poetry when framed by the inauguration of this new Lenten season.
A season of sacrifice, dedicated to focusing on - and participating in - the long, lethal night that stretched before the promised, determined dawn.
My oldest daughter, Zoe, almost 2 and a half, fidgets. She buried her face into my shoulder the minute we arrived into the warm, crowded room. She doesn't like new places and it takes her a while to peek out from the crook where my neck and shoulder meet. When she finally does, the woman next to me notices and smiles.
The rows of plastic, Sunny Delight colored seats are almost straight. The heavy rhythm of occupants have eased the carefully set, once-straight lines into patterns of gently rolling ripples that stretch from wall to wall.
The air - damp and thick with the growing heat of over occupancy - has a sweetness to it: rumors of incense. My mind drifts.
A time of purposed participation in the the journey that stretched from The Second Eden to the Hill of the Skull. A journey towards resurrection.
A journey thru death.
The priest finishes, a song follows, and a swelling sound - like distant waves thumping a soft shore - marks the transition from seated to standing.
"Ashes, ashes ..."
The audience rises.
We all fall down.