My Mother Died at 101

When I was a kid, I used to think that faith was about knowing stuff. Today, I think that faith is about wishing that life taught us something.

My mother died at 101, almost 102, years of age. Her memorial service was last weekend.

These days, it’s called the Mass Of The Resurrection. In the old days, a Requiem Mass. This mass was held in the chapel of a cloistered order of nuns. My mother loved those nuns, and they loved her.

But today, the day after the service, I am exhausted. I arranged the service, did the readings, delivered the eulogy. Like so many American families, we were born here, St. Louis, and almost everyone left here. I, by chance, returned. And stayed. Thus the arrangements were left to me. And that was OK. I like this liturgy.

There is a sameness to the Mass, whether it is said by the pope or the simplest Franciscan, whether it is in Latin or English, whether it is in Chartres Cathedral or, in this case, a small monastery. Some bits, like the gospel and the epistle and the psalm, these change from day to day. For all that, even these readings are framed within a liturgy remarkable for its sameness. This is true of a lot of Catholic prayers. The rosary is essentially a chant. The Hours are essentially The Psalms sung over and over and over.

My point being that I wish all this taught me something. About life. About prayer. About death. About life after death. I know what I believe. But I’ve reached an age where I don’t care what I believe. I care about what I feel. And right now, today, a day after her Mass, I feel empty and exhausted.

I thought I would cry when I saw my mother’s ashes. I thought I would cry when I read her eulogy at the memorial mass. Instead, I cry at odd times. Watching a show. Feeding the birds. Doing the dishes.

In a sense, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no conclusions. I find comfort in the mass. In the rosary. I find comfort in family and friends and cloistered sisters. But I wish all this taught me something. About prayer. About emptiness. About exhaustion. About why I cry when I’m feeding the birds.

Filed under: John Samuel Tieman, Prose