We Do Not Mourn as Others Do

She had Parkinson’s and was already in her eighties. Still, my mother’s death shocked us. She had lived with us for eight beautiful years. None of my kids had ever celebrated a birthday without her.

Her death came about by a condition totally unrelated to her Parkinson’s. She got a block in her small intestine one day, something which could have and should have passed on its own. Rather than showing up to her appointment for the laparoscopic surgery scheduled for the next morning to clear the blockage, her heart stopped, and stopped again, and stopped again, until we finally had to let her go.

In the midst of my grief, and all the emotions that come with it — the guilt, the self-doubt, the regret — one line of condolences from a priest friend became my anchor. “This is where our faith can lift us,” he wrote me. “We know that death does not have the last word. Death doesn’t even separate us at the deepest level. You can still pray for Mom and she can pray for you. You can still be a loving daughter, and she a loving mom.”

It is Not Right

St. Emilia was upset when her son died at twenty-seven. Her daughter Macrina — yet another saint — chided her for her desperate sorrow. “It is not right for a Christian to mourn as one who has no hope,” she said.

As a mom, those words jarred me. I scrolled past them, chalking them up to the spirituality of the olden days, something that the Church has evolved past. No pastor would give that advice today.

“You can still be a loving daughter and she a loving mom” — that is precisely why St. Macrina told St. Emilia that a Christian shouldn’t mourn the way others do. Death is not a separation, or not truly one. We mourn as people who know we’re still daughters, and sons, and moms and dads, and sisters and brothers to those who have gone before us.

She’s still my mom. I’m still her daughter. She’s still mothering me.


Kathleen N. Hattrup is a senior editor at Aleteia. “We Do Not Mourn as Others Do” is adapted from her “Does Death Truly Separate Us?”, published on Mind & Spirit.

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