My last surviving Grandma died today. I just have to randomly and publicly write things when death enters or happens in my life. I am not sure why that is the case, but it seems to happen every time. I have been fortunate to not have a lot of death until later in my life. The last year and half is when the death-wave started swelling. I am 35 years old, so how long could a guy reasonably expect to live before relatives from a huge Irish-Catholic family started passing?
Grandma Jesus has a special place in my heart because she was at least partly responsible for some of the crazy that I hold onto today. I call her Grandma Jesus, along with some of my other family members because she was as close to being a living saint as you could get. Between her and my other late Grandma, they were perfect Catholic models of loving and care. They were exactly as they appeared and that was always comforting on many levels. When you hear people talk about what Christians “should be” in practice, they were that living embodiment.
I would spend weeks at a time, at least in my memory it seems that way, when I was a kid out at a farm in New Carlisle, Ohio. That is my where my Grandpa and Grandma Jesus lived. My brother, sister, and me would do the farm work during the mornings and play around in the afternoons. I would make chicken coup raids for the next mornings eggs, feed hay to the horses, and then some basic yard work stuff, too. A lot of times we would go to some church function in the morning and always have Bible readings at night, followed by the rosary or stations of the cross depending on what time of year it was.
These obvious and standard Catholic practices were made all the more intense by the random fringe religious elements talked about before bed. I heard many a tales of the end times, Jesus returning in her lifetime, great punishments, people with visitations of the Virgin Mary, and other modern day miracles. I embraced all of these things with an open heart and a more than willing wild imagination. I became the Peacemaker. I called myself this. I think I have written before, but this is the time period I became ridiculously disconnected from reality. With the help of Grandma Jesus, I had come to believe that I was the next great chosen leader of God and his army. It went Moses, Jesus, Ryan Singer from Dayton, Ohio. She told me that it was likely that the Virgin Mary would visit me in my lifetime and that I needed to know what to do.
If she came to in a vision and she was wearing sandals or anything on her feet, then it was Satan pretending to be her. This was something Satan would do to try and trick religious people into doing bad things. He could appear as her, but not completely because his power was not limitless like God’s. If she was barefoot, it was really Mary. That was how you could always tell. I have felt uncomfortable wearing sandals to this day. I am not trying to be funny, but I really refuse to wear them because they make me feel so creepy and uneasy.
These things do not easily get eradicated from one’s brain. I am thirty-five years old now and would by lying if I said I was free from it all. But, today the day has come that may finally end it all. She has died and yet the world remains. The gates of hell have not opened up, releasing an army of demons to be battled to the eternal death. All of my fear and some of my hope has been forever put to rest on this day. I am not trying to trump up the profoundness of this day and what it represents, but for me it is quite monumental. Anyone raised in a fear-based dogma can attest to the resilience of that fear.
I never did not know of hell. To the best of my recollection, as long as I have been able to remember things, hell has been there. It is a foundation memory and knowingness. Trying to discard this fear could be equated to trying to stop involuntarily blinking. It just always has and continues to happen. Sure, there have been many times when I have been able to hold my eyes open for very long periods of time without blinking, but I always end up blinking. Today may just be the day when I do not have to blink anymore.
I feel like I need to be really clear about something. This is not something that I have been freed from or of in any way. I do not feel relieved or grateful that this has happened. I in no way now or ever have been angry at her or resented her for her beliefs that she passed along to me. She never had anything but complete and total love for me and everyone else. Her actions always came from that starting point. Always. Please do not make the mistake that have felt burdened by these things. I do nothing but smile when I think of her. I, like many other people wish we all could live forever. At least the people I love. I am saddened that I could only say good-bye over the phone and not even really commit to it fully. I am headed to the area I grew up for work in a couple of days and told her that I would see her very soon. I tried to make her believe that I believed I would see her. But, it was not meant to be.
At least I will be able to make this funeral. One downside of being a comedian who travels for work and is extremely poor is that very few gigs am I able to cancel. So, I have missed most of the funerals and weddings of the last five years or so. It is weird to write it, but I feel lucky that I will be able to attend this one. I am not sure if I should feel creepy about that sentence or not.
Grandma Jesus told me about the Virgin Mary and how she was going to appear over New York City on Christmas Eve to issue a warning to all humanity. This message was to be clear that God would soon be delivering a great punishment, not unlike the Great Flood. The Peacemaker told everyone at school about it and warned them to repent for their sins. We were all roughly nine or ten years old, how much sinning could most of us who had not yet discovered masturbation actually be doing. Original sin! Yes! Even at our young and somewhat innocent ages, we needed to know about this need to repent before the end. It did not happen.
She told me about the diary of an old saint that was found at an archeological site that through visitations of other saints had foretold of events that would happen in the future. This diary had predicted many things that came to pass years later. This diary had predicted a great earthquake that was going to shake the earth at its core and greatly reduce the world’s population. The Peacemaker told his flock at school about this and told them to repent and get pure. It did not happen.
She told me about the three nuns that were visited by Jesus and given secret messages about the future. The only message they revealed to the public was that Jesus would come back to earth before the last one of them had died. They were all in their nineties. The Peacemaker reported this urgent message of salvation to sinners at his grade school. It did not happen.
I have discovered a recent phenomenon that a lot of my memories are only memories to me. What I mean by that is that huge events that I believe have shaped me forever as a person have not been confirmed by the outside people that were also involved or would know about them. This makes it difficult for me to believe anything from my past is real. I know these stories like the back of my own hand. They forged my life in such a permanent and profound way. Yet, there can be no collaboration. I know I am not crazy.
When I was very young, me and Grandma Jesus went to a church luncheon at a cafeteria. I still remember holding my tray and waiting in line. Sometime after that luncheon, she showed me a miraculous photo from that day. It was of a couple people waiting in line. There was a relatively large gap between two of the people, almost like some other person was standing there. But, there was no person. However, there was a floating image. This floating image was clearly the Virgin Mary. It was her head and just past her neck. I do not remember what food was being served that day and I am not going to even try to make a “she must have been hungry” or “the casserole must have been heavenly” joke here. Even though I guess I just kind of did. Seeing that photo changed my life. At the time, I thought it would forever cement my belief in God.
I can remember where I was standing when I saw the photo. I can remember all of the skin on my body trying to jump off my skeleton. I was overcome with awe. I was witness to a miracle. My best guess of the year is that it was somewhere close to 1985. As I grew older and subsequently away from God, I would go back to the picture in my mind to cling onto hope and belief. That moment in the kitchen made me believe in God even when I was coked up or wanting to die. That photo changed me forever. That photo is not something anyone would forget.
Grandma Jesus did not remember the photo when I asked her about a couple years ago. This rattled me to the core in almost the opposite way the photo had originally. She has battled health issues for the last eight or nine years, so her memory was probably not what it used to be. But, she could recall in great detail the beginnings of her and my Grandpa’s courtship as of ten months ago. Her memory was not gone. She was still a sharp mind even though her physical body was failing. She did not remember seeing the Virgin Mary in a photo. Would I just make this up? Did I make it up? Why?
Some of these things will probably haunt me until the day that I leave this earth. The Peacemaker has long passed away and so has my memorization of the entire Catholic mass ceremony. But, my love for Grandma Jesus will not pass. My gratitude for her opening my mind up to the unbelievable will not pass. To this day I find myself day-dreaming about all kinds of things that most people find ridiculous. I may not have seen 99% of the things I believe are possible, but I still believe.
Grandma Jesus gave me one lasting gift and that is the ability to have faith. I am sure she would have wanted my faith to have been in a god or in Catholicism specifically, but I do cherish my faith. Anyone who knows me knows that my faith is unshakable, just like hers.
I sincerely hope that my memories of the past and the memories I am yet to make will feel real. Other than family and friends, what else do we really have?