My Mom—on Life and Death

“I believe” she told me one day, “that when you are born the ‘spark’ comes into you”. I attempted to have her tell me what she thought that ‘spark’ was. The Italian translation was ‘light’. She went on, “then when you die, it leaves—goes out—gone”. “All that remains is trash.”

She was Roman Catholic Italian and if you have interacted with many from that genre, they are different. Roman Catholics compress dogma, culture, ethnicity and beliefs to suit their purposes. Italians actually shaped the religion to accommodate their convenience, understanding, politics or the curse or blessing they were looking to apply to any specific imminent situation.

Now many years later, I ponder, “What is the ‘light?” Obviously, breath fits; but then so does the ‘soul’, knowledge, or even God. The statement is open to interpretation–kind of like a parable.

This conversation was not unlike many of Mom’s pronouncements—again viewed from way afar. I believe now that this and others I will share will indeed prove Mom to have spoken in parables. She did not give the answer, even though at seven you were certain she had. At 57, you were still contemplating the question and in the intervening years you had supplied many different answers. In keeping with your Italian brand of Roman Catholicism, you shaped the answer to accommodate your current circumstances.

Mom, however, revered life. She had a daily mantra upon waking of thanking God for another day. She repeated the mantra at bedtime.

Death, on the other hand, she dealt with differently. Once at her brother’s viewing I watched her go up to the casket and pull some coins out of her purse and place them in her brother’s pockets. “Why Mom?” was the question. The answer was a problem for me for years, at least until I was older and began to understand that not everything has logic.

She said, “The dead must have money not to get themselves into purgatory or heaven, but to be able to give some to others who cannot get there by their good works in life.” Doesn’t it just ‘blow your mind’—charity continues on your trip on to heaven.

How does hatred affect your self esteem?

There is a LOT of hate here in 2017. Oh dear Lord, the airwaves are crowded with it. It permeates the air; it is in our streets; and for many it appears to fill the bloodstream.
As a student of self-affirmation for the past 50 years, I found myself ‘hating the haters’ and falling into the cycle that spreads when hatred is shared. That is how it works, you know–find someone who has the same hates you have; share them; boil them up; spread them around; make your only discussions with people who share your hate; listen to only those news media who share that same hatred and all is copasetic. But is it? What happens to your soul when your mind, heart and intellect are polluted by hatred?
I know that many believe it was the disappointing outcome of the 2016 election that motivated their hatred. The winner was shocking, out of the mainstream, an idiot, ‘not my president’, etc. No, that was just the excuse. What has been happening in our world for as many years as I have been paying attention—that is about fifty–is the loss of self-love. Anyone who has learned to love and accept him or her self cannot hate another. That is not a religious statement that is a psychological statement and it is complicated.
Teaching ourselves to love and respect who we are is an endless task. Alas, we live in a world where we seldom have to do it. There are so many distractions for us to procrastinate starting or even thinking about it. Also, self esteem (self acceptance and self actualization) cannot be taught in school. No, there are no teachers. You cannot take a course in self-awareness or self-honesty. Those qualities are difficult and can probably never be mastered. Unfortunately, few even think to begin the process. Only people who have hit the hard wall of emotional stress and inadequate living consider its necessity.
I began my torturous journey when I had to consider my contribution to my failing marriage and the dysfunctional environment my children had to endure. It will always be torturous; it will always require the question ‘what is MY own behavior contributing to this mess?’
As I began reflecting on the hatred all around me and my own desire to ‘hate the haters’, the question became: ‘what kinds of cost to my self esteem will this bring? ’
And the answer is NOT WORTH IT. Not only does hatred diminish the soul, it pollutes the intellect and the tension, stress and turmoil of it probably destroys a healthy body.