Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we've always had a healthy respect for Plan B. This is especially true when choosing our praise and worship team. Mainstream might work for media, but it's less appealing in matters of the soul.
I left the Christian church in 2005 after a long period of disenchantment followed by a sudden and profound glimpse of the Other Voices in the Other Rooms. Since then I have hardly set foot in a Protestant church, but having a Roman Catholic husband, I have occasionally had to do the Mass thing. And by doing it, I mean showing up, sitting in the back, and suddenly becoming absolutely fascinated by the shrubbery outside when the going gets meaty.
Until Thursday night, when there was no shrubbery option.
If my mother-in-law had been a devout Catholic who tithed and attended, she would have found it easier to get a priest to say her last rites. She made it clear that she wanted one (and her siblings separately made the same request -- stridently). My Catholic siblings-in-law, whose children have attended parochial school from K to 12, set about the business of drumming up someone who could fit the bill. Mind you, we were in Baltimore, the only one of the Thirteen Colonies set up specifically for Roman Catholics. How hard could it be?
It took awhile, but the specimen who finally arrived was a fine one from central casting. Tall, white-haired, well-groomed, and with a soothing baritone voice that was perhaps lost on my poor deaf mother-in-law in her state of semi-consciousness. And the guy was efficient. A cursory shake of the hand all around, and he got right down to business.
There was one problem. The only purportedly Catholic person in the hospital room besides priest and patient was my husband. The other Catholic siblings had melted away, leaving
Pagan self, and
(America is a wonderful place at times, don't you think?)
Things were proceeding as these things do ... you know, oil, and signs and such. But then the priest turned around and motioned for all of us to hold hands. And he tucked into an "Our Father" expecting us to be fully participatory.
Acutely aware of my husband's grief, and my dear mother-in-law's need for these rites, I intoned an "Our Father," carefully remembering that the Catholics cut theirs a little shorter than the Protestants. I had fortunately learned the "Hail Mary" from listening to my mother-in-law say it over the years at this and that occasion. I don't know what my brother-in-law did. Guessing he melted into the medical monitors.
You know, a lot of people who follow the jealous God are very tolerant towards those of us who don't. Fortunately, my mother-in-law was one of them. This is why I had no problem joining a prayer to the jealous God for the salvation of a soul who was so worthy of Heaven she wouldn't even have had to ask my Gods "pretty please."
The priest biffed out as quickly as he came, and shortly thereafter we moved my mother-in-law to hospice. She died about six hours later, of a broken shoulder. Those of you who have had elderly relatives with multiple health problems know how this can happen.
I had some misgivings about the last rites. I don't know if the jealous God will release my mother-in-law to come see me in the Summer Lands, so I offered up my own rite (no oil, no signs) petitioning the bored Goddess Queen Brighid the Bright to open the portals so that Mom in law can visit me from time to time. Seems only fair. My mother in law was full 50 percent Irish.
I echo The Spare's sentiments (below) about her grandmother. I've heard it through the grapevine that many people do not get along well with their mothers-in-law. I'm not one of them. Mine was a prime specimen, top notch.
May she have found the Summer Lands. Indeed.