I don’t have a God, but I like people who do (sometimes). Last week my best friend Ben, a cradle Catholic, organised a 10.00am Mass at the Roman Catholic cathedral to be dedicated to my mother. Intention: Carole Foster is how they put it. The cathedral is a cavernous, austere and cold building; the daily ritual of mass takes place in a side chapel where thirty or so of the hard core faithful turn up. It lasted about half an hour. There was a reading from the bible which was like an incantation of a family tree: Ezikiel was the father of Jeremiah was the father of Lucas was the father of Simeon whose father was the father of…
I have just been looking at a family tree which my notoriously tight-fisted deceased uncle had draw up in Biro on the back of a Guinness wall calendar using the August 1982 page. The picture is of a gamekeeper, his mate and a Labrador. The keeper shoots one a flock of early computer game Toucans which blows up like a detonated space invader. I would have been twenty then, my mother nearly forty. The chart goes back to 1791 where it is peopled by Josephs and Jobs and one Jeremiah, father of John, Joyce and Dinah.
The couple directly behind Ben and I at the Mass were the most devout of the devout slightly pre-empting everyone else’s responses, she, most especially, getting them in a nano-second earlier than him and loud too in an accent I found hard to locate. The ritual at the end is to shake hands with everyone within touching distance of you. When I looked at the girl I decided she was Chilean. She was wearing the accessory de jour, the item that Ben and I both lacked: a crocheted bonnet. I liked being there, and I would go back.
I have been speaking to mum this afternoon, she has not had a good week, feeling sick from the chemo and also with pain in her stomach. I never prayed in church, it would seem like asking a huge favour from a total stranger. On the way in we lit candles, I preferred the silence of that. But I have been talking to myself a lot this week and once I caught myself whispering in the woods with Dylan.
The Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Norwich