Anger to my mom is strength and unimpeachable truth, a companion to conviction, to self-determination. I write about this a little bit in Ancestor Trouble, how the idea of identifying, much less acknowledging, difficult underlying feelings such as fear or sadness fills her with rage.
“No worries,” I say to her sometimes on the phone, about this or that, without thinking.
“I’m not worried!” she says, her voice rising to a shout. “I’m never worried.” She holds that anyone who believes in Jesus, who walks by faith and not by sight, need never feel anxious, need never feel anything other than the certainty of a blissful future with their savior in heaven. To have those tough, tender feelings signals a failing in the feeler. Her stockpile of emergency food buckets and other End-Times rations, her potassium iodide pills, her seven used microwaves now serving as “Faraday cages” to protect electronics in the event of a nuclear blast—these are rational in her view, not borne of anxiety. Since my childhood, she has believed that she would be Raptured up. To discuss the possibility of death, to contemplate impermanence, has been not just morbid and melancholy and self-indulgent, but a sign of faithlessness. To give death mental energy is to make it more likely. No ashes to ashes, dust to dust in her form of Evangelical Christianity. Instead you trust that Jesus will protect you from these things. This has been her reality.
Her most recent stroke would have killed her if they hadn’t removed the clog in her main cerebral artery and inserted a stent. Instead it was a medium-size stroke, on top of the prior strokes. It’s further affected her cognition, her movement. She’s back home now. And for the first time she seems to be reconciling herself to the possibility of her life in its current form coming to an end outside the Rapture. “Are you glad to be back home?” my stepfather asked her.
“Yes,” she said, “for just a little while.”
What did she mean, he asked.
“I’ll be going home to Jesus soon,” she said. I’m happy that she’s allowing herself to imagine an end of life less clenched around the prophecies of the Book of Revelation. And I’m also feeling those feelings that are of the lowest, weakest sort to her.