We had the funeral on Friday, June 29th at my mother’s church. It was simple and quite nice. The mortician made my mother look almost alive. I thought she was going to sit up in her casket. I swear I saw her chest rise and fall. She was beautiful.
A couple of military guys came. They played taps and handed my sister a folded American flag. That was one of the most touching parts of the ceremony. The closing of the casket was the hardest part.
Each time we viewed my mother’s body, I kept touching her. I would cover her hand with mine or stroke her arm. I had this urge to take her embalmed body home with me. I wanted to keep looking at her and have that physical connection. Closing the casket meant I would never again see her. At least, not as she was.
After the service, I stood up with five other volunteers and I carried my mother down the steps of the church to the waiting car. In a few days, my mother’s ashes will be returned to me and I can take her home to Chicago. My sister and I found a lovely ceramic container for her at a thrift store while we were searching for an outfit for her to wear to the service. My mother’s dead, but she’s not gone. Her spirit lives and I believe I’ve felt it in the days since her passing. I didn’t cry much, but when I did the pain I felt was always short lived. When the tears came it was like something reached out and touched my heart and I would suddenly feel calm. I could almost swear it was my mother comforting me from beyond the grave. Always worried about her babies, even in death. I have no doubt that at my own passing, my mother will be right there waiting for me. It is this realization that has taken the last dregs of fear regarding transitioning from me. I know my mommy will be there.
I still don’t know what to make of my mother’s passing. Beyond the grief and the realization that my mother is no longer in this world, there has been a definite internal shift within me. I feel stronger emotionally, more sure about things that I was previously uncertain about. I feel more ready to take risks that, previously, I was unwilling to take. I feel more grown up than I ever have before. Despite this last, I know that I don’t have to do things on my own. My mom’s still around and I know she’ll continue to help me as she can.
My obsession with touching my mother’s body and feeling that need to look at her is about her body, not her. Human beings are physical people. We eat, drink, and satisfy our bodily needs. We’re very much attached to this world and the body is the medium through which we interact with it. I hate that I can no longer hug or kiss my mother, but I know it’s not the end of her. I have to learn to interact with her as spirit and let go of the physical. In time, I will.
My religion and faith has also been affected by my mother’s death. I’ve been going through a crisis of faith for a while now. It was slowly resolving itself, but even so I was having a tough time. Some of the internal conflict I had been having about my religion and practices are gone. I’m not out of the woods, yet, but I’m not feeling the same (dis)stress I was before. Also, I think I’m finally ready to be friends with Jesus.
Ten years ago I wanted nothing to do with Christianity. I was angry about a lot of things and I viewed not only the Church, but all Christians as oppressors. Even after I got out of that mode of thinking, I still viewed the institution unfavorably and with some lingering hostility. However, in the last year, I have begun venerating various faces of Mary (Our Lady of Czestochawa and Our Lady of Sorrows, specifically) and this year I have started praying to saints and using psalms in my personal religious practice. Although, I was initially uncomfortable, the introduction of hoodoo into my practice made it necessary and the more I practiced, the more natural it felt. Still, though I could now speak the name of Jesus without cringing, I felt more comfortable speaking to Mary or another saint about than I did Jesus.
I have inherited a number of religious items that belonged to my mother. I have a couple rosaries, a Catholic family bible, a copy of the Gideon New Testament with the Psalms and a pocket sized version of the same. I even have a couple of crucifixes, one of which, I bought for her when I went abroad last summer. All of these things will have a place in my home and I no longer feel any weirdness about owning or using these items in my practice.
For those who might be wondering, no, I am not becoming a Christo-Pagan and nor am I converting to Christianity. However, considering my study and use of hoodoo, a Black American magical tradition, the connection between modern Black American people and the Church, and my own ancestral ties to Christianity through my Belovéd Dead, I am long overdue to accept Jesus into my life. Though, not as my Lord and Savior. There are other Powers that currently hold this position.
I must also admit that I strongly associate Jesus with my mother. Not that my mother is a deified child of God, but rather her love of God and Jesus was so much a part of her that I cannot think of Jesus without thinking about my mother. And as much as I want and need my mother’s spirit to continue to be a part of my life, I don’t think I could do it without Jesus being in there somehow. So, I’ll set a place for him at the proverbial table. I think my mother would be pleased.
Beyond religion, I’ve also been thinking a lot about my health. I don’t want to live forever, but I want to live more than 53 years and I want to be as active as possible in the years I have left on this Earth. Being healthy and making good choices has always been a struggle. Poor physical health is a family trait, but I don’t want it to remain that way. Genetics are only part of the equation and not all members of my family have the health problems that my mother and father have. I have a chance to break the cycle and I will try my hardest to make changes in my own life and set an example for future generations of my family.
I still have more to say, but this is enough for now.