Larry and Ash Wednesday



My late son Larry always seemed to enjoy Ash Wednesday.  Last year 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 last year 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 an 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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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Don, I pray you and your wife feel the Peace of our Lord, as you attend Ash Wednesday Mass today.

    Your words really resonate.

    I love how you constantly refer to this life as we all live it- in a “Vale of Tears”. It expresses so accurately how much we yearn for God.

    Your beautiful son Larry now lives eternally, right by his Heavenly Father, watching down on you his earthly father.

    You and your family are in my prayers on this day.

  2. “You and your family are in my prayers on this day.”

    Thank you Ez. Saint Francis of Assisi used to call himself a beggar completely dependent upon God. Until my son died I didn’t really understand his words and now I think I do.

  3. “Larry looks like you, Donald.”

    I like to think he did. He had his maternal grandmother’s curly hair, and the lean, lanky build of his paternal grandfather. He had the big feet of his maternal grandfather, and when he laughed or was angry he always reminded me of his paternal grandmother. Whenever I looked into his eyes I usually saw the gentleness of my bride looking back.

  4. “one of the greatest gifts God has given us in this life is our inability to see the future.”

    Well said Don.

  5. Eloquent is how I would describe that ‘turn of joy’. Of course, trying to imagine the moments, I wonder whether you or someone in your family might be there behind him.

  6. Don:
    Your magnanimous (great-souled) words touched my heart and brought a tear to my eye. They made Ash Wednesday come alive for me. If we knew the future, would we act differently. Since we do not know the day nor the hour, should we act as if was imminent and strive even greater to bring out the best in others and ourselves while we traverse this vale of tears on our way to what we hope will be a heavenly reward? I guess in the end, it’s not what we “give up” for Lent but what we do for Lent.

  7. Thank you Pete. Since Larry’s death I think I do appreciate the gift of each day more than I did before. When I was a kid a priest once told me that I should live each day as if it was my last. That piece of ageless advice makes much more sense to me now than it did then.

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