Holding on to Dust

Dust. I don’t enjoy Dust. Unfortunately, I enjoy Dust-ing even less. Cleaning house is a constant spiritual battle for me.

Exhorts the cherub atop my right shoulder: “Thy God and Father Almighty hath blessed thee with many things over which He hath made you His responsible steward. Dust! for thou art to do all things to the glory of God.” Yes, yes, what an ingrate I am. I shall vanquish thee, Dust, and have dominion over thee.

Then the purr from the left: “Lisssten my pretty, what’sss the ussse when it will only be back again tomorrow? Don’t you hear thossse Oreosss calling? The Dussst will wait for you becaussse it lovesss you and knowsss how much you love Oreosss.” Yes, that’s right, it will be there tomorrow . . . I’m not expecting company . . . and I dooo love Oreos.

Which is how it all began a few mornings ago. I couldn’t put it off any longer. The guilt was simply too much for one human to bear (right shoulder – 1, left shoulder – 0). So I picked myself up by the scruff of the neck, marched myself right into that pantry, and dug around until I found the tools o’ the trade. O why O why did I have to pick dark wood? What was I thinking?? And all those tiny crevices! A Kleenex on a pin head couldn’t get in there. Why isn’t there ever any Dust at American Furniture Warehouse? Why don’t they WARN you??

Anyway, as I moved through the house adding self-rebuke to each spritz of Pledge, I swore for the zillionth time that I would set a cleaning schedule and stick to it. I’d stick to it like stink on a skunk. Like white on rice. Like . . . well, you get the idea.

Sigh. Knowing I would fail before the week was out added a double portion of vexation to the whole sordid affair.

As I trudged through the house (mentally playing the Cinderella card in hopes of garnering a bit of husband sympathy), I began to think about my best friend, Sooz, and how I’d sure rather be texting random flapdoodle with her than cleaning house. To everyone else she was Susie, but to me she was just Sooz. Whenever we’d see each other, we’d invariably engage in our silly little greeting ritual as though it had been decades since our last encounter. We particularly enjoyed exasperating our daughters with our endless enjoyment of each happy reunion. The protocol:

Me: Sooooooooooooz!!!
Her: Suuuuuuuuuusan!!!

That was it. Then we’d laugh hysterically and embrace in a big dumb hug like the big dummies we were, free to be as silly with one another as we wanted to be. That’s just the kind of friendship we had. We were Lucy and Ethel. We were spaghetti and meatballs. We were dumb, silly friends who loved each other dearly.

Sooz died in a motorcycle wreck exactly four months to the day from that day of Dust. I thought I hadn’t paid all that much attention to the date, but I guess I’d really just filed it away under H for “Hurts-too-much-to-think-about-right-now.” But as I began moving from room to room, grungy microfiber in hand, there were suddenly reminders of her everywhere. A prayer plaque in the guest bathroom. The “Cowboy’s Ten Commandments” on the living room wall. The “God picked me to love you” magnet on the fridge. The painting inscribed with Psalm 4:8 by the doorway:

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

All of them gifts from a joy-filled, faith-filled sister in Christ.

Trying to ignore the achy hollowness and pushing myself forward, all that was left to do was the sideboard where the framed portrait of Sooz with my daughter Angie on her wedding day stands as a memorial to our friendship. What incredible, beautiful memories from that day. Who would have ever guessed that barely a month and a half later there would be a fatal wreck and Sooz would be gone?

It’s a fact that I would never have been able to pull off Angie’s wedding without Sooz. In addition to having more determinmagic_wandation than a windmill in a hurricane, Sooz was the kind of person who could sprinkle her pixie dust on the ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary. Sometimes it would drive me crazy just going shopping with her. She could stare at a singular bolt of fabric at Walmart for what seemed like hours, not because of what she saw it was, but because of what she saw it could be. But her vision wasn’t splashy or garish; on the contrary, her creativity was tasteful; refined; understated; vintage. Really quite the opposite of her exuberant and frequently sophomoric personality. So when she presented me with the small bouquet of baby’s breath she’d saved from the wedding delicately placed in an old Mason jar with a simple yellow ribbon tied around the lip, I was elated; both surprised and not surprised at all. You see, in addition to a myriad of other contributions, Sooz had done all the flowers for the wedding, and in anticipating that I wouldn’t think about keeping a sprig of the delicate blooms for a keepsake, she did it for me. Unspoken. Unannounced. That’s just how she was. It was the perfect accompaniment to the photograph.

The rearview mirror of time has an extraordinary way of framing the circumstances of life in ways we could never have imagined while in the midst of them. Case in point: Wedged between the few short weeks after Angie’s wedding and just a week and a half before Sooz was gone was the passing of her father-in-law. After our exchange of tears and hugs and memories at the visitation, Sooz maneuvered me outside to show off her and her husband’s new transport: a two-wheeled, bells and whistles, bling-bling orange hunk of Honda. She was so proud, so delighted, so beaming with anticipation. When Sooz looked at that bike, she didn’t see the wild hair of a midlife crisis that an outsider might presume it to be; she saw the future memories that she and her husband would make as they vroomed off into the sunset. Looking back on that day now, those precious moments with Sooz and her bike abide like pressed flowers between the pages of my mind.

Get back to thbaby's breath5y Dust, commanded I to my microfiber. As I gently moved the Mason jar aside to subdue the Dust lingering behind it, tiny white powdery bits of the feathery wisps suddenly began floating like new-fallen snow from the sprig. Confusion. Denial. Panic. Desperation. O no, what if my memories of her become like those falling fragments and can never be restored?! What will I do if the whole thing disintegrates?? Each tiny particle became the sound of her voice, her wide-eyed grin, that unrestrained laugh, the tender heart. I raced to whisk the precious flakes into my palm.

And there I stood, staring at the sprinkling of Dust in my hand.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

It’s a queer thing, the passing of a true follower of Christ. A study in paradoxes, really. Family members praising God for His goodness between sobs of grief and disbelief. Friends talking of God’s love and mercy with tears of heartbreak streaming down their cheeks. An other-worldly mixture of sorrowing and rejoicing blended together into one perfect union of resurrection hope.

But let’s face it; a funeral is the last place any of us would choose to be no matter what the circumstances. Yet Scripture records in Ecclesiastes 7:2 these words of King Solomon: Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart.

Say what??

King Solomon is the man to whom God gave “a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days (1 Kings 3:12-13). How could this wisest, wealthiest, and most honored of men, whom history records as having experienced the very finest of feasts and the most tragic of losses, commend a wake over a wedding, a funeral over a festival, mourning over celebration? At first glance, this seems . . . well . . . absurd. Sounds like anything but wise. Perhaps it’s worth a peek inside these two houses to see if we can see what the wisdom of Solomon saw.

Inside the house of feasting are merriment, and whimsy, and fluff. This house is a bubble whose windows welcome the fluttering of fresh summer breezes until the afternoon passes and shutters are closed to keep out the evening chill. One looks up only in pursuit of shapes and faces in puffy clouds till the prevailing winds recast them and nothing remains but a bit of froth. Jesus Himself warned, For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away” (Matthew 24:38-39). Sure, there is laughter and gaiety and delight; but where in this house is that which “the living will take to heart,” that which will penetrate to the very soul of a man?

Next door, in the house of mourning, there is something deep, something dark that takes us out of momentary living and forces us to consider the destiny that lies in wait for each of us. This house is paved with a one-way cobblestone upon which all must tread. What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave? (Psalm 89:48). It is filled with solemnity and an almost palpable air making us wonder if the next breath may be our very last. Closing the windows in this house cannot keep out the unrelenting wind of the inevitable. It is musty and vault-like, and when one looks up, there is only the stony reality of no escape. The substance of this house pierces the heart. With ashes. And Dust.

And yet, subtly veiled, a paradox resides within these two houses. For those whose hope is sure, not the uncertain hope of wishful thinking, but the confident hope of a promise that simply has yet to be realized–the hope that is only found in faith in Jesus Christ–the house of mourning is also a house of rejoicing! It reminds us that though the end of this life must and will come, it is over this cobblestone that we are ushered into the presence of our Lord and will join Him for all eternity in His heavenly house, there to partake of the feast above all feasts. “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9). For this reason, we can take the ashes and Dust of death and toss them into the wind never to be remembered again. It is why we can find great peace and joy—and even celebration—in the death of a child of God.

But for the man who persists in trusting in himself, all of his good works and all of his religious motions and all of his earthly treasures will dissipate like froth at the moment of his divine appointment with his Maker. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Tragically, the reality that the worthiness he has been counting on to save him has merely been Dust will seal his doom. The man who calls the house of feasting his home will discover in the twinkling of an eye that his residence has been a house of cards; once fallen, its true form is revealed: It has been the house of mourning all along. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house–and it fell–and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:26-27). And the ashes and Dust of this man will burn forevermore. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

Well, there I stood, staring at the sprinkling of Dust in my hand. I glanced again at the painting by the doorway.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Rest and peace and safety. What a magnificent, glorious future.

In the meantime, I await the day when I will take my last earthly breath and Sooz and I will be reunited once more and we’ll once again exclaim,

Me: Sooooooooooooz!!!
Her: Suuuuuuuuuusan!!!

Joined forever together in worshipping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I clasped the Dust in my hand, walked outside, and tossed it into the wind.

Category: Hope
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4 Responses
  1. Judy says:

    This is wonderful and such a good reminder that all in this world is temporary and our attention should always be on The Lord and matters that are eternal! My definition of a true friend is one who points my attention to eternal things when all seems a mess right now. Susie was that kind of friend to you! What a blessing straight from the hand of our Lord!

  2. Tiffany Martson says:

    WOW Susan! I cried as I read your dusting story. I wasn’t best friends with Suzie, but we had been friends forever..”tying to ignore the hollowness and pushing myself forward”…I can relate.

    Strangely, I forget, and I see her in Walmart (where we often bumped into each other)…but not really…

    Beautifully written! My favorite (among many) lines, “Each tiny particle became the sound of her voice, her wide-eyed grin, that unrestrained laugh, the tender heart. I raced to whisk the precious flakes into my palm.”



  3. Unapologetically Susan says:

    Thank-you Tiffany for the kind comments. What an impact she made on so many lives. Definitely left a big hole behind.

  4. Shirley says:

    What a Wonderful Testament to both Susie and the Grace and Mercy of our all Loving God! Thank you.

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