I Worry About my Mother’s Soul
I’m concerned about my mother … not just her health, but her soul. As I look back over the past twenty or so years, I wonder if I waited too long to be concerned. It’s not just like the old Bill Cosby line, when he said to his kids about their adoring grandmother, “That’s not the same woman who raised me. She’s older now, and she’s trying to get into heaven.” My mother is nicer now, but it’s more than just that.
My mother, throughout my young life, was a devout Catholic. She insisted that my siblings and I attend church every Sunday, and the usual Catholic classes to usher us through the earlier sacraments (first confession, first communion, confirmation, and total disillusion). At 16 we were considered old enough to decide for ourselves where the future of our religion would lead us. My siblings, both older, were off the hook while I was still trying to understand the basics. For example, who was Harold? I mean, “Our Father, who art in heaven, Harold be thy name?” That made no sense! Clearly, I had a long way to go.
However, even after my 16th birthday, I enjoyed attending mass, sitting in the cry room, watching the babies fight. My mother called them the “Teeny-Tiny Gladiators,” but she seemed happy that I still attended mass. I continued to attend mass during my college years, although my faith was often under attack by the atheistic professors and my classmates, many of whom seemed to hitch up their southern Baptist pants with their Bible belts. But my Mother had done her work well, planting the seeds of Catholicism into my mind and heart so deeply that my virginity was still in question far after the Bible belts were removed and piled in the corner of an anonymous girl’s dorm room.
When I came home in the years after college, we would occasionally find time to go to church together. However, missing Church might be as simple as saying to mom, “See you in the morning .” (Sleeping in is my mother’s first commandment.) My religious fires seemed to be aflame, although working on Sundays was a requirement as a staffer on an NFL team. Each off-season I would rededicate myself to regular attendance, making sure to pay my tithe and take communion. Mmmmmm, Jesus is gooooddddd!
My mother, however, had begun to long for the good old days, when they spoke Latin in mass. Her philosophy seemed to be that she didn’t need to understand the mass. She also was NOT a fan of all the singing and hand shaking. These same Christian soldiers who smiled and whispered, “Peace be with you!” as they firmly grasped your hand were the ones who would race to their cars and drive like maniacs to get home to whatever wrestling show was on. I guess they figured they might kill you after mass, so they’d best wish you well before they sent you on your way.
Each year, my mother strayed further off the religious path. She even stopped attending Christmas and Easter services. My attempts to wake her yielded an uninterested yawn, a flip of the pillow, and a renewed, persistent snoring. “Mom! God needs to see you!” I’d say. “He knows where I live.” She’d moan, shooing me away. She was so far gone now that she wouldn’t even celebrate Christmas with a tree, preferring a ficus or some other unfortunate house plant.
This is not to say that my mother has been sacrificing the neighbor’s pets to the dark one and running around naked, covered in blood, every full moon. She’s not evil, or at least mostly not evil. Maybe she just figures that she’s paid her dues, and not even salvation could drag her into a church while a screeching senior citizen makes SURE that her song won’t fall short of Heaven, a half-note off key. (And we wonder why he isn’t listening!) Maybe she thinks that she gets enough hypocrisy during the week and doesn’t need any more on the weekends. Maybe she’s adopted the philosophy from Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie, As Good As It Gets: “Sell crazy somewhere else, we’re all filled up here.” I think she still believes in God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. I also think she’s okay visiting them on her terms these days. So should I worry?
My mother is a wonderful person – crazy, but wonderful! I’d hate to think that she’ll be confined to hell for eternity all by herself. After all, she hates the heat, and she’s not as young as springtime anymore. So, I decided to do the only thing a good son would do for his mother. I sleep in on Sundays and pray on my own time, on my own schedule. On Sundays, I sometimes miss the calming repetition of mass, the slow motion aerobic workout of “sit, kneel, sit, stand, sit kneel, reach those prayers to the sky,” and the simple satisfaction of still knowing the next prayer before 80% of the parishioners. But those who would judge need only to think of this: My mother made my life on earth heaven at times, and sometimes hell at others. So Mom…for heaven or hell…it’s you and me for eternity! … Mom?
Thanks Craig, we now suggest you consider joining a Witness Protection Program!
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