Making it to Heaven by Melissa Rosella

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Mom wanted to visit the gravestones of her mom, Coye, her sisters, Stella and Jackie, and her father, Jack, at the Roller Funeral Home. She wished to put a fresh silk flower creation in the vase provided on her mom’s headstone to celebrate the upcoming Easter holiday. I thought it was a great idea, as I had just enough  time to pay my respects before hitting the road for 3 hours.

I pulled in, slowly, as mom directed. Mom can’t drive any longer, as her Parkinson’s has worsened making her tremors pretty significant. She misses driving her car and feels as though a teeny tiny piece of her independence has been taken away. Mom tells me to stop at the green bush and points over to the six plots her mom, Coye, had purchased years and years ago. & there they are. I felt a bit sad. All have left my mom and she is the only one that remains of her siblings, as she’s lost her parents, too. I help mom out of the car with her cane in hand. She zips up her jacket as the clouds roll in. It’s going to rain soon, we best hurry before the storm hits.

We walk up and mom says, “Hi, mama, it’s me.” I wrap the green adhesive around the top of the silk flower arrangement and rip out the old ones. Water splashes on me a bit and I replace the vase with a colorful silk creation that mom picked out especially for her mom. I kneel at Coye’s gravestone and I trace each of the words with my fingers. I make my way over to Jack’s headstone, then Stella, and finally, Jackie. I miss them. I never knew my mom’s parents, as I was too little to fully remember them.

Oh, but I remember Stella. She was bold and brave and loud and had a southern drawl. She was a mother, a wife, a sister, a counselor, a beloved teacher, and my aunt. She was a good listener and a strong woman who would always serve me sweet tea. I miss her.

Jackie was beautiful and ran for Miss Arkansas. Her house was covered head to toe with Victorian antiques and crosses and stain glass windows and other collectibles. She let her cat eat on the counter and would always have yummy treats ready when we’d arrive. What beautiful white hair Jackie had and her smile was one you’d never ever forget. I miss her.

Mom looked over at me and motioned that it was time to go. I helped her in the car and sat in the driver’s seat, ready to head back to pack and make my way home. Mom asks if we can pull over in the parking lot of the Roller Funeral Home. She begins to tell me that her funeral arrangements have been paid in full, that her headstone is ready, as it is right next to her mom’s. I find this to be a bit of an odd convo, as my mom is not even 70, but it is a necessary convo. I suppose. She mentioned that she absolutely positively does not want to be cremated as Vince wants to be.

She begins going on and on about the Lord and the Bible and being saved and redemption and being spared and being baptized. My stomach turns, again, as I’ve had this convo. about 1 billion times. She insisted I read the Bible and I shook my head. She said she was going to send me one. She’s sent me about 20 in the past. Mom has dementia, so I can’t blame her, but this convo. is so freaking annoying. I love God. We’re homies.  I don’t need to read the Bible to have a relationship with God.

She starts in on the good word and I feel as if I’m going to vomit. My mom is definitely ill and it is at these times I want to run and hide and come out when I’m damn well ready. She tries to force her beliefs on me- to preach to me, to teach me, to convert me, and the list continues. She asks if I believe in the Lord. She says she’ll be praying that I make it to heaven. She mentions that getting there is through the Bible and I politely disagree. I try to hold back, but can’t do so. Here we go again. How does my mom not know this already?!?!?!?!?!?!

I find it degrading and very rude of her to even insinuate that I may not make it to heaven. I’m no saint. I’m imperfect, but reading a fucking book is not going to get me there. Praying 5 billion times a day is not going to get me there. Sitting in the front row of church every single solitary Sunday is not going to get me there. I tell her all of this and I can tell she’s praying in her head for me to be saved. She is obsessed with all things holy. My mom is a bible fundamentalist and her schizophrenia leaves her with very limited thinking and if you don’t fit in that box, you are wrong.

I remind myself she is ill and I say something like this: “Mom, I find it utterly degrading that you have to question if I will make it to heaven or not. I live my life to serve others and I try to be an extension of the Lord, daily. I look to help others and look for ways to help those in need. The Lord I love loves me for me and loves all for all that they are. The Lord looks at intention, he looks at your heart, not how well you know the Bible, how many times you go to church, how many hyms you sing, how much you pray, and the list continues. I already know I’m in by the way I treat those around me. I know so many people who sit in the front row of church, know the good word back to back, and treat the world like shit (I didn’t cuss in front of my mom) by judging those that differ from them. That is not a Christian.”

A christian is a person that lives with the intent to serve and to help on purpose. That’s it. It’s common sense.

Mom got really quiet and said that she was sorry. I told her not to send me any fucking (I didn’t cuss) bibles, as I have several. I told her not to send me scripture written on gigantic index cards that have been previously highlighted. I told her that it all goes in the trash can. I told her not to send me DVD’s of any kind that were religion based.

The relationship  I have with God is between me and God. My mom, & no one, are in charge of my fate. God is in charge of my fate and only he knows who is going and who is not. I don’t even know if I believe there is a hell. The God I know and love is so forgiving and so selfless and so loving and so caring and so very accepting. The God I know does not keep a tally of my church attendance (THANK GOD), keep a running record of how many sins I have committed, keep a tally of how many days in a row I prayed, or a running record of how many times I’ve read the Bible. That is not how the God I love works. He looks at my heart and he looks at my intention and he looks at the very way I treat those around me, especially: the drug users, the prostitutes, the homeless, the socially awkward, the mentally ill, and more. It’s so easy to go to church and read the Bible and pray and sing hymns, but I believe the real challenge is living life to serve others in small and big ways- to be an extension of God.

There are so many ways to be an extention of God. Maybe you watch your best friend’s baby, give a Starbuck’s gift card to a beloved homeless gal friend, tip your server a little extra, hug someone who looks sad, help a friend paint the walls of her upcoming preschool, and more. It’s the little things that God notices. He doesn’t expect you to save the world, but he expects you to make the world a better place by being the best you can be. Doing your part each and every day is the way to get to heaven. Your heart is what he cares about.

Mom is ill and I will write off her bible fundamentalism and crazy ass comments as mental illness, but it’s freaking hard to do. She’s carring a lot: anxiety, breast cancer, Parkinson’s, dementia, & mental illness. She is to be forgiven for all that she does because she is doing her best, but it’s harder to do and easier to say. I love her to the moon and back and only can hope and pray she does not lose sleep over me not reading the good word because I still think she thinks I am not making it to the golden gates. I can’t control my mom’s thoughts. I can only control my own. I think God and I are just fine.

Your redemption, your fate, and your relationship with God, are between you and God. No one has the right to judge your relationship, or lack there of, with the Lord. It is your business and up to you, as you have free will.

For the record, I love my mom and we are the best of friends. In fact, I plan on moving her here after my stepfather’s passing so I can keep a closer eye on her, take care of her the best way I possibly can, and allow her to build a close relationship with her grandkids. My mom remains my hero and I am who I am because of her.

Be a good freaking human being. & if you mess up, apologize and try harder the next time. It’s common freaking sense.



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