Faith and DeathBy Mary Chory –
On July 13 and on August 28, 2013, it was 40 years since my 21 year old brother and my Mom died 6 weeks apart. It was the summer of 1973 when my big Irish family of 7, shockingly, became a family of 5. So here we were—Dad, myself and 3 sisters, aged 10, 14 and 17, floating on a rudderless ship. Not only was he grieving, but he knew he had to return to work, on the night shift, leaving his young daughters to fend for themselves.
Raised in a Catholic household and having gone to 13 years of Catholic school, I did not question why these things had happened.
Looking back now I think I was afraid to question what was happening. Several weeks before I had spent my 19th birthday in Ireland with my Mom. It was a wonderful trip and we were happy to share our stories with the my 3 younger sisters and my Dad. We were all enjoying the summer—and then everything changed.Fast forward—we were planning for the 2nd funeral in 6 weeks. My Mom’s nephew who was studying for the priesthood had a conversation with my Dad about God and faith. It did not go well. My cousin resides in California and we did not see him often. Many years later when visiting my cousin in California he asked me if my Dad had ever gone back to Mass or reconnected to his faith. I was curious about why he would ask this question. He said in the summer of ’73 my Dad had said he no longer believed in God, would not go to Mass any longer and that no good God would take his son and the mother of his 4 daughters.
This came as a shock to me as my dad never exhibited this behavior to any of his children – but 25 years later it sure made sense that he would be angry with God and the situation in which he had found himself. In front of his children he was able to continue to work through his pain, continuing to go to Mass, kneel on a dining room chair to pray and be a positive presence for his family. I am grateful that I did not witness my Dad’s anger and fear because it allowed me to draw on my strong faith and use prayer to find the strength to assist my Dad in any way that I could and finish college.
My Dad will be 95 in September and he continues to inspire me. My Dad has been visiting me this past week and today we went to Mass together. Every day and every conversation I have with him is special. I have missed my Mom and my brother for 40 years now but feel so blessed when I hear my grown children talk how how great their GPa is and how much they love him. Somehow I think my Mom is smiling down on all of us!