This Sunday is Mother’s day. My mother died on March 27th. In honor of this day, I want to share my slice of a bittersweet Mother’s Day diatribe with you all. I hope this piece brings you a smile, and perhaps an iota of closure for me.
There are allegedly seven stages of grief. I’m not certain which stage I’m at currently, but I do know that the rage portion was precipitated by a clergyman on the day of my mother’s funeral service. This entry is my tribute to her, but I’d also like to share my anger with the appropriated Catholic representative that presided the service.
My mother was like all of us, imperfect. She was human. She made mistakes as we all do, but more so she was capable of blinding courage, intelligence, perseverance, and unconditional love. She was cherished by many for all these listed reasons. She toiled as a single mother when I was a child, and later as an equally selfless wife to my new father. I now have two children of my own, and I’m amazed at the fortitude she exhibited while raising me. I have countless reasons to be ever grateful to her, but the paramount gift she gave me was the ability to think for myself.
She fought staunch opposition for years to not have me baptized. Long before Mr. Dawkins railed against indoctrination, my mom felt that spirituality and religion were adult decisions. I now fight that same battle for my own children. I can’t express how priceless this wisdom is to me. Her insight is immortalized in the fact that my kids live without pointless guilt thrust upon them.
I try to convince myself that the pain we all feel with my mother’s death is lessened by the knowledge that there are at least three human beings on this planet who don’t tether morality with religion. Being good to each other is human, for humanity’s sake. This learned from a woman who herself was religious. She chose to believe in God, but respected me enough to find my own path.
So, when my three year old and I recite all our family member’s names and we get to “Gramma Neicey” my grief is so overtaking, I ascend rather to a smile by the tangible presence of Mom’s continued protection. Enriching us by bestowing the gift of free thinking, embodied by my loving children who’ve never been to a church service a day in their life. Outside the service held for my mother’s funeral, of course.
If first impressions are everything, the Catholics screwed the pooch on this one. My mom considered herself as quote “Psuedo-Catholic”. Wanting to honor my mother’s convictions we enlisted a local clergyman to preside over the service. Never have I seen a more disconnected, self serving, arbitrary, entity in my life.
Firstly, if I were even to begin to indulge the tripe that is Catholicism; I’d feel slighted by the fact that we got a Deacon and not a Priest. Consider it a cosmic McDonald’s and after getting your order wrong, you ask to talk to the manager. This is the equivalent of them sending a “shift leader” to settle your business instead of the actual manager. What? The Priest had four exorcisms backlogged and was too busy to preside my mother’s funeral? Fucking Nonsense.
As I sit in the front pew, I genuinely attempt to attain some comfort in the religious metaphors this schmuck is going to rattle off. Instead of finding a fitting verse that might lend a personal touch to those who’ve lost a parent, this charlatan proceeds to do a dead on Ben Stein impression and reads The Lord’s Prayer as if he were a trainee telemarketer reading a script. My fury at this phoned-in, proceeding was palpable.
To me, it was as if we paid a Pepsi representative to come in and promote his tasty beverage at the gathering for my mother’s death. “Hello everyone. Denise was loved by many, and OH! By the way, drink Pepsi! Peace be with you.” Although, I’m sure the Pepsi rep would have at least used a little inflection and eye contact.
As her only child, it was on me to say a few words. After this spectacle, I indeed had some things to say. To be truthful, I was so angry and emotional that I can’t exactly recall my exact words. I’ve done my best to remember, and cobbled the rest from eye witness accounts of my outburst. I remember turning to look back at the residing Deacon and the rest is a red haze of disgust.
I do know that I publicly explained to him how irrelevant his speech was. That my mother was indeed religious, even Catholic, but what he said had no bearing on why we are all here. I then thanked those who did come to say goodbye and that my mother wanted us all to be happy to have known and loved her. I’m not even certain he even realized I was speaking to him. He was that tuned out. Basically, I did the Deacon’s job as well as my duty as her only son. What a useless fuck this guy was. Did I get any tithes!?? Hell no! In fact, I’m pretty sure we paid this dickhead. But, I digress. Catholics rarely surprise me when it comes to appalling behavior, so I’ll just chalk this up to business as usual..
Mothers hold a unique role that nearly everyone can relate to, at the very least on a biological level. They are perpetual teachers of life, in all it’s forms. They are prisms that represent every spectrum of emotion possible: Love, acceptance, disappointment, loss, wisdom, guilt, the list can go on without end. I think this rule applies to absentee and even abusive mothers, in the fact that without them you’d not be reading this, or anything for that matter if not for them.
Through their time with us among the living and time long past, our mothers shape us on every level. If you are fortunate enough to still have a mother, despite any differences, love her fiercely , remember that life is short and do whatever it takes to thank her as often as possible. Chances are she deserves it, and there will come a time when you simply can’t.
The Beatles, my ironic love of Christmas, Stephen King, and a voracious thirst to learn, are all lynchpin teachings I learned from my lost mother. But, I think the most valuable gift she bestowed on me was the opportunity to own and embrace my own convictions. I’d like to think that if she were able to have seen me belittle a man of the cloth at her own funeral, she would have laughed with pride, knowing that she taught her son well, maybe just a little too well.
Thanks to you all for listening, and thanks mostly to my Mom. We all loved you dearly, and will miss you always. Happy Mother’s Day.
Denise Manuel~Sept. 14Th 1953 – March 27th 2012