Today I’m taking a break from economics, politics, social science, sexually aggressive children and Liberal Anger to think about the past four years. Stay with me, as I’m going to ramble. I’ll try and proof this at some point, but I don’t promise a damn thing.
Four years ago, I raced down the Eisenhower Expressway to get to Loyola so I could say goodbye to my mom. Actually, that’s not true. I did 120+ down the Ike to tell my mom not to go. I missed her by five minutes. The day before, her oncologist reminded her that, “there may come a point where the fight’s over.” The point where the radiation, chemo and cancer treatments would not even maintain her quality of life. My mom told everyone as best she could how much she loved us, then she passed away. Knowing her like I did–a story in and of itself–I know she passed away without much fan faire because she did not want to be a burden on her kids. I also think she wanted a few moments alone to make peace with herself and God. It was her one selfish act, and she had earned it.
When I asked a few weeks ago, “What do you believe?” I was going through the early process of missing my parents. I want to believe that there is a heaven, a communion of saints, a benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient God. I so I want to believe in the idea that when I die, I would get to live on in some form with my parents. I want that comfort.
Yet, I do not need that comfort to continue living. It would make life easier, hence the “want”, however I refuse to believe in something just to make my life easier. That is a form of moral and intellectual dishonesty that my parents would be appalled at.
Like Seth and Torteya, I fear oblivion–and not just for myself. When I think of the atheist’s idea of the end, I want to scream for my parents. It is unfair, unjust and just plain wrong to snuff out who they were. Of course, I am thinking of myself in this regard: I miss their guidance, my dad’s wit and wisdom, my mom’s amazing ability to make peace (or surprise me with a well placed F-bomb); yet I also think of my friends and family who have been touched by them in some way. How many problems could have been dealt with with one single phone call from my dad (I know one recent reader knows exactly what I am talking about) or how just talking to my mom would make an unbearable weak turn into an opportunity.
My mom brightened up the cancer ward at Loyola. The nurses loved her. She would help the other patients with small acts of kindness–helping to pass out cookies, telling them which part of the ward had the better snacks, listening to them talk about their own treatments–even when she just wanted to worry about her family. Not herself, but the burden she felt she caused her family. This is not a woman who should be confined to oblivion.
I do take comfort in the fact that she knew that her friends and family relished the idea of being able to help her in her time of need. Her church friends loved sharing their cooking with her. Old friends from her teaching days loved to talk politics and keep her company. The year I moved back home to take care of her will be one of the highlights of my life.
Before my parents died, I was a casual Catholic. After my dad died, I still believed. Hell, I was determined, on some level, to maintain my Catholic identity in the face of its co-optation by the Right. I still believed shortly after my mom died. Now, four years later, I struggle with the idea God. Like YvaDiva i am repulsed by the idea that my parents were “duped” into belief. I am scared and angry that they may be gone forever. Without my parents guidance, my faith is far smaller than a mustard seed.
Losing my parents harmed my faith. I don’t find the platitude, “the Lord works in mysterious ways” to have any modicum of comfort. It is a cop-out of the highest fucking order; however, in all fairness, I find solace in Woody Gutherie’s words.
I know I am still angry about my parent’s illness and death. Hell, I’m mad that my faith in God was harmed by my church community. My family was betrayed by a priest and my parish turned on the best pastor we ever had. I have seen my faith turn it’s back on its mission of social justice and turn into a monster of a monolith. I know my mom would be disappointed in this; however, she wasn’t so close-minded to believe that one must be a believer to be a good person.
The more I think about it, the more I believe in what my mom believed in. I believe that people are inherently good. I believe that people can change. I believe that hard work should be enough to guarantee one success in life, but that it doesn’t always work out that way. I believe that being kindness is the way to solve most of one’s ills–but that does not mean one has to cave, be weak or give up.
Like her, I believe that you don’t stop fighting until you’ve done everything you can do. And even then, you go out with grace.
I don’t have my mother’s faith, and I know that makes me a weaker person than she was. At the same time, I know she wouldn’t want me to believe in her ideals just because they were hers. I also know that she wouldn’t want me to miss her as much as I do, I know she would be touched at how I try to live like she did.
I miss you mom. More than I can really ever say.