To My Mother and to Myself

"A Burial at Ormans" by Gustave Courbet

“A Burial at Ormans” by Gustave Courbet

My mother died this week.  I miss her very much.

Shall I go to her funeral or not? I am not callous.

A divorce split my family forty years ago.  Some people in the family still do not speak to one another.  Forty years is such a long time that I can’t imagine how they keep it up.

“They can’t kick me out,” said one relative who intends to go to the funeral.

But that is exactly the kind of confrontation I hope to avoid.

I do not go to funerals.  My mother went to funerals.  Once she told me not to visit because she was going to a funeral.  “It’s going to be huge,” she said.

I could not comprehend what these funerals meant to her until I ended up with her box of obituaries.

My mother believed in God and went to Mass every week.  I believe in the afterlife for her because she believed.

The death scenes have been a bit like the scenes in War and Peace, when Count Bezukhov is dying , and the three Princesses (his daughters), Prince Vasily Kuragin, and Anna Mikhaylovna (on behalf of the illegitimate Pierre) are intriguing for money.  The Prince tells the Princess that they must find a letter the Count wrote to the Emperor.  If it is sent, the Count’s illegitimate son Pierre will inherit everything.

Although there are no letters in my family, the word “money” is said so often that I have taken care to accumulate very little in my lifetime.  (Does this call for a poem by Horace?  Probably.)

In Chapter 18 of War and Peace, many clichés are uttered.  Tolstoy had a fine sense of irony.

The human span,” said a little old man, some sort of cleric, to a lady who had come to sit by him and was now listening naively to everything he said, “that span is determined and may not be exceeded.”

I had to listen to a lot of cliches like that this week.

My mother was in agony the day before she died.  “Help me,” “I might die,” and “Sorry.”

Sitting next to her while she slept the next afternoon, I flashed on her life.  I worried about the “Sorry.”   I felt that I understood her.  When she was in her mid-forties, her husband left her, I, her daughter, left her, and her mother died. Too much at once.  It cracked her.  In my life it has been more or less one thing at a time, which is a blessing.  Though, frankly?  The two of us both suffered immensely, and there is no point to our sufferings, either.  (What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  What shit!)

My mother was a devout Catholic who became more liberal as the years went by because of watching “The View” and other talk shows.  She positively approved of gays at the end of her life.

We had little in common.  She liked TV, I don’t much.  We both liked movies.  She liked shopping, I don’t.  But we became very good friends.

I miss her very much.

I dedicate the following song to the one I love:  her.    John Mellencamp was a Midwesterner, and that kind of identity meant a lot to her.  For instance, she loved Ashton Kutcher because he was a Midwesterner!

Love you, Mom!

Here goes.

“Human Wheels,” written by John Mellencamp and George Green.

This land today, shall draw its last breath
And take into its ancient depths
This frail reminder of it’s giant, dreaming self.
While I, with human-hindered eyes
Unequal to the sweeping curve of life,
Stand on this single print of time.

Human wheels spin round and round
While the clock keeps the pace.
Human wheels spin round and round
Help the light to my face.

That time, today, no triumph gains
At this short success of age.
This pale reflection of its brave and
Blundering deed.
For I, descend from this vault,
Now dreams beyond my earthly fault
Knowledge, sure, from the seed.

Human wheels spin round and round
While the clock keeps the pace.
Human wheels spin round and round
Help the light to my face.

This land, today, my tears shall taste
And take into its dark embrace.
This love, who in my beating heart endures,
Assured, by every sun that burns,
The dust to which this flesh shall return.
It is the ancient, dreaming dust of God.

Human wheels spin round and round
While the clock keeps the pace.
Human wheels spin round and round
Help the light to my face.
Human wheels spin round and round
While the clock keeps the pace.
Human wheels spin round and round
Help the light to my face.

5 thoughts on “To My Mother and to Myself

  1. So sorry for your loss, Kat – my thoughts are with you. And you must make whatever decision is best for your about the funeral – your mother would not want you to be somewhere that made you unhappy. My OH is a complete non-believer and has said he wants no ceremony or burial or anything – which will not go down well with some but you have to respect people’s choices. I am just glad your mother is no longer suffering. All good wishes and support to you.


  2. I feel for you Kathy. Don’t go to where your instinct and intelligence tells you not to because it will not do anyone any good.


  3. Kat, I am very sorry you have lost your mother. Since my own mother died some 15 years ago, I find I think of her just as much as I did when she was alive, probably more. That is because at the base, where we are, we are part of our mothers.

    Do what your heart tells you about the funeral. I do attend funerals because they give a way to say goodbye to the physical presence of the person. The memory of the spirit lives on.


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