Ash Wednesday is my favorite holiday. I'm not quite sure why. I suspect that it has something to do with the ambiance that death lends to life. I like to walk through graveyards with well-crafted, yet aged stones and statues. There's something special about adorning death with art. Furthermore, I'm a night person. The veil of darkness adds mystery to my surrounding world. When done well liturgically, Ash Wednesday captures those feels quite well.
My favorite TV series right now is the new Battlestar Galactica. I don't have the Sci Fi channel, so I have to play catch-up on Hulu. I don't want to spoil the final season for anyone (so if you haven't caught up, skip to the next paragraph), but there is a wonderful scene where the rebel cylons have to make a tough decision. Unlike humans, when they "die" they are downloaded into a Resurrection Ship. Then, they are uploaded into a new body. But, in a strange and unexpected plot twist, the rebel cylons help the humans to destroy the Resurrection Ship. Once that is done, death becomes final. This may sound like insanity to those of us who inevitably will meet an end, but there is something significant to their reasoning. Without death, life is meaningless.
I think that's what we can call the ambiance that death lends to life: meaning. This in no way makes death a happy occurance. I'm not happy about it at all. When I think of my mom and dad, I know I don't want them to die. I would much rather have them with me always. But all stories must come to a close. For stories to have a meaning, they must have an end. It is a sad, yet powerful truth. And I believe that intermingled with that truth is also an amazing grace.