Losing my Mother and Realizing her Resurrection by Gina Messina-Dysert


Gina and momFive years ago today I buried my mother.  Violence took her life; however because of this patriarchal culture we live in, there was no prosecution in her death.  Violence against women is of little consequence in our society.

She died at the very young age of 56 on June 29, 2008, the same day I was moving to California.  I was just about to get into our moving truck when I got the call.  I will never forget the moment I heard the words, “your mom passed away last night.”  It was as if I felt her dying in that moment, as if my heart was falling from my body.  I cried out so violently and fell to the floor.  How could this be real?  How could my mom be gone?  The day before we had stood in my kitchen, danced, sang, laughed, embraced.  She was so alive, but in a moment, she was gone.  I begged and pleaded with God, I thought it was a mistake, and although she had been dead for several hours, I thought perhaps they could still revive her.  I was completely unreasonable in my grief.

In the months that followed I felt more connected to my mother than I had in life.  Day to day we become so busy, so wrapped up in what we are doing and we forget to make time for those around us.  When my mother died, all I could do was think about her.  I prayed to her, I looked at her pictures, I wrote about her, I listened to music that reminded me of her; every moment was about my mother.  I did not want to lose her,  I could not let go.

I often wondered where my mother was, what it meant to be in heaven or on “the other side.”  Was she in purgatory? Or was she welcomed into the “Kingdom” despite her earthly sins?  Did she dance before Jesus as one of her favorite songs crooned?  Was she resurrected?

I found myself in constant search of answers.  While I never questioned God in her death, the doctrine of my Catholic faith did not comfort me. I wanted to know where she was, what it meant to say she was resurrected.

As I stood in front of the mirror one day and saw my mother’s smirk on my face, it occurred to me that perhaps her resurrection could be found in me.  Biologically, emotionally, spiritually, I am the person I am because of my mother.  She lives on in me and that is something I have come to realize every time someone tells me that I look like my mom, every time I see her expressions on my own face.  But it is more than this; I learned from my mom to be who I am.  I behave the way I do, engage others, parent my child, and continue to grow in life because of my mother’s influence.

Perhaps this sounds trite, but it brings me comfort to know my mother lives within me.  Her death was and is the greatest tragedy of my life, and I continue to grieve her loss every day.  Five years later I still try to call her when I have news to share, want one of her recipes, or have a question about how to care for my daughter; then reality sets in that she won’t answer the phone.  But knowing I can honor her life through her influence on mine brings me comfort.  This may not be the resurrection of Catholic doctrine, but it is a resurrection I can see; I am witness to my mother’s resurrection.

 Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is a Feminist theologian, ethicist, and activist.  She was recently appointed Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College and is Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. In addition, Gina has taught at multiple universities including Claremont Graduate UniversityLoyola Marymount University, John Carroll University and Notre Dame College.   Gina has authored multiple articles and the forthcoming book Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence, and is co-editor (with Rosemary Radford Ruether) of the forthcoming anthology, Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century. Her research interests are theologically and ethically driven, involve a feminist and interdisciplinary approach, and are influenced by her activist roots and experience working with survivors of rape and domestic violence.  Gina can be followed on Twitter @FemTheologian and her website can be accessed at http://ginamessinadysert.com.
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Categories: Grief, Resurrection, Theology

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

9 replies

  1. I don’t look as much like my mother as you do yours, but I feel the same. She lives in me in so many ways, despite the differences in our life paths–she wanted nothing more than marriage and family.

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  2. Gina, thank you for this post. Thank you for letting us glimpse your mother’s beautiful resurrection in you.

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  3. my mom is still alive, but i do already have hints of her “resurrection” in me and in my daughter and my sisters, my maternal grandmother too… thank you for sharing the beautiful bond you had and still have with your mother. it is divine…

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  4. I use to call my mother every morning. Tell her stories about the kids. Even after she died, I would still want to pick up the phone to tell her a great story. It is so wonderful you look like your mom. It must be something in the genes, I looked like mine, also. Always remember the good times. Love Momma D

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  5. Gina, thank you for sharing this. I lost my mother in December, after 12 years of slow decline in a nursing home. Her final passing was gentle and peaceful, for which I am grateful, but it is so hard to find a “place” for the feeling of loss. I am so sorry for the sudden and devastating way you lost your mom. I, too, look like my mother and am comforted by the ways I have internalized her. Our mothers will always be a part of us.

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  6. Gina, thank you! My mother died of breast cancer when I was seven years old, and your insights about resurrection ring very true to me.

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  7. So beautifully written and so sorry for your continued loss. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. My grandma died two months ago, unexpectedly, and I’ve had some similar thoughts/experiences—I have her ring….and her hands (it fits the exact same finger on me that it fit on her). I have her smile…

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  9. We both know how our mother’s connect us through their shared dates of life and death. I too carry my mother with me–even daily and feel I manifest the best of her. To Marie and Pauline, may they live on in our lives and loves.

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