Memento Mori & Parenting a Dead Child

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.

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Motivation for the Poor

Something I’ve been noticing a lot lately is this new fad of motivational speakers and writers telling everyone how to “make it big” and they all basically say the same thing while using their own story of how the did it. The majority of these people are middle class white women who are “allies” of people of color (a term I HATE by the way and do not understand why brown and black people seem to not get how close it sounds to “colored people”, but that’s another blog post that is sitting in my drafts because I am not really ready for the flame-throwing that will bring me) and who don’t seem to see that their motivational advice is all basically the same and all for one specific audience: people with privileges that poor people do not have. Not just poor people, but people living the struggle.

I do not mean the “oh I had to be on bed rest” struggle either.  I mean the struggle of generational poverty and trauma. Of being a single mother and grandmother who has to wait tables to make ends meet or have more than one job. The people who are working for minimum wage at the conferences where these motivational gurus are speaking. The people who never had the chance to go to college and even if they did, they would be behind socially because we have to learn a new language around kids who went to good schools. People who are worried about racism and how it is an issue that they live, not just learn about in books and on the internet. People without insurance or a spouse or whose whole family has been riddled with addiction. People with a criminal record that means they will never get a job with benefits. People with bad credit which means they can’t rent an apartment or ever own a home. People who struggle with every single one of the issues that I just wrote at the same time. Who is helping these people learn to figure out and follow their dreams?

I’ll tell you Who: Jesus.

Yeah, I said it. Jesus. The one Name you don’t hear much of even though a lot of these spunky motivational speakers will say they are Christians. They use Christianity as a badge of honor but they do not dare speak His name or say anything about His Gospel.

Something I have been thinking about a lot this week is how equal holiness makes us. It does not matter how much money you have, what kind of family you were born into, whether or not you are a millionaire or work seventeen jobs, holiness is attainable for everyone. Not only is it attainable, but it is the purpose of our entire existence. THAT is the true goal of our lives, to be made into saints.

The key words are “be made into”. It is much easier to become a multi-millionaire than it is to be made into a saint.  Because allowing God to make you a saint means that your entire life will be set on fire right before your very eyes. Suffering is the fire that God uses to make saints (He does not cause the suffering, He USES it).

He will perform surgery on your life to take out every single rotten thing out of it and you will not be put under while it is happening. No, it will be painful. So so painful.

I can totally see why these nice, kind, superficial, easy and full of the prosperity gospel “methods” are so in fashion and so marketable while stories of suffering and being nailed to a Cross are not. I can tell you for sure that if I had known the amount of heartache, suffering and all around bullshit my life as a Christian seeking holiness would bring me, I would have run so fast the other way.

I did not know because God dupes us lost sheep all the time, it’s his MO. Just read the lives of the Saints, the unedited versions. He swoons us, loves us, does miraculous things for us and then our lives go right into the toilet. Motivational speeches and “how-to” books do not help when that happens. The only thing that helps is clinging to Jesus who went before us and Who hung on His Cross saying “Why have you forsaken me?”.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for theirs will be the Kingdom of God. 

That is the motivation for the poor. He isn’t a motivational speaker, He doesn’t give us a “how to be a success” plan, He gives us salvation.

My thoughts on the Church Scandal

Hello everyone! I just wanted to let ya’ll know that I have been writing about all of my thoughts and emotions about the latest round of Catholic Chaos over on my Patheos Blog if you want to go read them. I wanted to write about all of it with my fellow Patheos writers.

Please pray for the victims of sex abuse and for those of us who have our own abuse brought up in these stories.

Here is the link on where to find me on Patheos!