When my mother died during Holy Week, I saw how rituals kept her grounded.
My mother passed away in the early morning hours on Saturday of Holy Week. Given her strong faith, the timing of this was not lost on any of us.
Her last few weeks proved to be most difficult. Yet she was able to die at home with her beloved next to her.
Much gratitude is in my heart as she is no longer suffering from the cancer pain. She also kept her sense of humor and her strong mind. On a recent Sunday, she called and chided me to “take the day off and rest” and not “to fuss over” her.
We all were grappling with hospice care, realizing she needed more assistance than what hospice could offer. That would prove to be one of the last conversations I would have with her. I cried as I knew the end was near and wanted to be able to help her.
From France to America
Trusting was a strong theme in her life. She trusted in the man who would become her husband to cross the Atlantic Ocean from her hometown of Hunawihr, France, at the tender age of 20 to meet him in Detroit. They married soon after she arrived. There, they started a family, which continued to grow, and they moved to Ohio. Living near the small town of Bellville, this would be her home to the very end.
My mom had no family in the U.S., so she turned to her Catholic faith. That was how she faced the challenges as an immigrant in this country. She and my father were among the founding families of the parish she attended to her dying days. Serving on various committees, she assisted with feeding what she called “the old people” and with funerals by bringing food after the service. She did so up to end, even when she was one of “the old people.”
Tests of faith
When my sister died at age 18, my mother’s faith was tested. Again, when she lost my father after 40 years of marriage, she was tested. Both died suddenly.
Trusting the rituals of Mass and prayer eased the pain of these losses for her.
Love entered her life two years ago when she married Doug, after knowing him for 17 years in the church choir. One year after he was widowed, they started dating and married months later. Once again, she trusted in love.
This relationship was an anchor for her in the last 10 months of her life. She stayed alive for longer, despite the odds, and even the oncologists noted it. I see it was a testament to the love that they had for each other.
The ‘medicine’ of ritual, of releasing
The rosary became a daily ritual, one she trusted in as she trusted in medicine. As time and her cancer marched on, she continued this up to the end, practicing the ritual with Doug.
She also trusted in the process of dying. She released her spirit to the hands of those she believed to be there for her upon her death. On two occasions, she had last rites.
These rituals eased her worries about next steps as she transitioned. My prayers are for her to have ease in the next phase of her spiritual life.
My mother and I shared this. We both trust in the spiritual dimension of our lives. I know I will always share that with my mother. And it will serve as my medicine for the journey of grief as I ponder the loss of my earthly mother.
Marie Jose Pentz-Keppler. Jan 1,1937-March 31,2018