Shortly after my oldest son Anthony died by suicide a religious sister on Twitter began a movement. She began talking about death and an old Catholic tradition “Memento Mori”, which is Latin for “remember your death” or “remember you will die”. The point of this devotion is to always keep death on front of you so that you can live your life ready for the moment you will face God.
Sr. Theresa is a former atheist turned Catholic who became a religious sister. I have always been intrigued by her and her story for many reasons, mostly because she says things that hit home for me. Her twitter handle is “pursued by Truth” and there is no better way to describe my relationship with God. She gets it.
I’ll be honest with y’all. When she first started tweeting about the skull on her desk, I was upset. I had just buried Anthony and her talk of death seemed to go against the experience I was living. But as the days, weeks and months went by I began to see what she was doing and what this devotion was all about. It was all about hope.
One thing that has annoyed me since Anthony’s death is the way that almost everyone comforts themselves about death. How so many people insist on saying “God has a new angel” or just plain assuming that everyone who dies is “in a better place”. The reality is that humans do not become angels (we are two distinct species) and not everyone goes to heaven.
What I found in following along with Sister’s memento Mori devotion is reality. Reality that we will all die, reality that Christ has died for us and the reality that we each have the freedom to choose God or to choose anything and everything but God. The skull gives me comfort in knowing that wherever Anthony is, he is loved and he is there by his own choice and that God loves him so much that He died on a cross for him to choose heaven. God did not hold anything back so that my son can be saved.
Parenting a dead child is not something anyone writes about in parenting books. Mostly because we all tend to think that losing a child will not happen to us. That is a tragedy that happens to be we know, but our kids are safe because we do the right things. It isn’t until you’re standing in front of a grave with your child’s body being lowered into it that you realize life is not fair and yes, your child can easily die just like any other child. Even then, I don’t think it sink in. It sinks in little by little every morning when the first thought is “Anthony is really dead”. I have yet to wake up and that not be my first thought in the morning. It takes me half an hour to remember and accept it every single morning. In that half hour I look at the skull on my bedside table and remember that my goal for the day is to remember that one day I will die and to do everything I can to be ready to face God and by His Grace and Mercy see Anthony again.
Sister’s devotion has been my how-to guide on parenting a dead child. She has helped me to say “dead” and “death” and it not punch me in the gut. It has helped me to face a reality that otherwise would have crushed me if not for her reminding me of the HOPE that comes with Jesus dying for us and conquering death.
It has taught me not to fear death or give death any power over me or my son. God has defeated death. Death has not taken anything from me. I am still Anthony’s mother and he is still my son. Love is stronger than death.
Sister’s memento Mori journal has become a place where I write all my grief, my hopes, my dreams and my goals on moving forward. It is where I write things I want to say to Anthony and where I remember that death has been destroyed. It is where I remember that death has no sting.
I think this journal is amazing but also if you are grieving, I suggest buy one (link here) and following Sr. Theresa on Twitter or Facebook.