Monday, February 22, 2010

Remember That You are Dust

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. . .

All I can think about is Nancy.

Nancy. So brash. So confident. So fragile and vulnerable all at the same time. All the things that make the female so appealing to me.

It was a crowded flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. I scanned the seats and looked for someone who might fit the description of yogi, spiritually-centered, freedom, older chick—Nancy. We accosted several innocent travelers with no success until she finally found me.

She enthusiastically hugged me and handed me a cloth bound journal she hand-made just for our team headed to Africa--a team of women traveling to learn about the conditions of life for other women who struggle with the realities of extreme poverty, disease, and inequality in the developing world. We were working with World Vision and World Bicycle Relief.

I had not met Nancy before our trip and she quickly became a foundational member of the team. Asking real and penetrating questions and always ready with a smile, a joke, an opinion, or an argument. She won my heart and the hearts of all the women on the team and 10 days of traveling in Africa with her gave us a special glimpse into her soul. A sweet lady. A funny lady. A hurting and searching lady. A wise women with a desire for harmony, peace and light.

One of the last nights in Africa we all sat outside and spontaneously began to sing praise songs to God. Nancy stayed for a bit listening to our concert to the bush elephants, the baboons and antelopes but at some point excused herself and retired.

Yet, I was aware of her curled up in her safari bed listening to us sing and I can’t stop thinking of Nancy... And that night... And the echoing sound of our song as it carried over the the wild wilderness of Africa and over Nancy’s sweet soul. Every word sincere to the God of Creation. Every praise a recognition of His mercy and love.

A few weeks after returning from Africa Nancy suffered a massive stroke and a terminal brain tumor was discovered.

And I can’t stop thinking of Nancy. So full of life. So gloriously imperfect, yet striving. And suddenly her time is done.

I love you, Nancy. I respect your journey, your life and your searching. May you find what your heart desires. You called several times to tell me you did not feel well. I thought it was jet lag not a terminal brain tumor. Forgive my hurried existence. Know that you are loved. That the Creator of the Universe knows you intimately; you are dust and to dust you shall return. Believe in Him. Believe in you as His Creation.

This Lent I am intensly struck by the reality that we are dust yet eternal. Nancy, your spark in the world is not in vain and it will not be forgotten.


  1. Anonymous5:51 PM

    Wow. Thank you for this post and for sharing Nancy's life. I, too, will be thinking about her...and about life...and about dust.


  2. It's interesting Shayne. This is exactly how I explained our Aunt's cremation this week to Zoe. She couldn't understand why Betty (who died at 89 this week) couldn't be buried, why she had to be turned to ashes. I explained to her that from dust we were made, dust we shall return. She wanted to know HOW people were cremated and I wouldn't tell her, she's only 6. But I told her even people who are buried eventually turn to dust, like ashes.
    This was her first very close loved one she's lost. She manages death very well. And she managed this very well, grieving, yet understanding.

    This is a very true and timely post. And I am thinking about Nancy and so many who go through so much with these earthly bodies.

  3. Amazing Shayne. Not only you have managed to nail my sister's complex personality after having known her less than two weeks but fold her human story into one of the oldest in the book.

    Do you know Steve Earl song, "Ashes to Ashes?" If not check it out. It is beautiful, like you are.

    Thank you, Nancy's sister, Leah