amw (amw) wrote,

losing my europeanity

My oma was my last connection to Catholicism.

The Dutch half of my family is Catholic, you see, which might be a surprise for people who know the country as the source of the orange pennants of the UK's most devout Protestants. Mom's family is from way down south of South Holland, practically a stone's throw from Belgium.

I wasn't religious at all, growing up. My father came from a British colonial (and presumably Protestant) family, which greatly upset my oma and opa. I do remember being taught The Lord's Prayer, and reciting it every night before i went to bed. That was just some dumb cultural thing that we were expected to do. I always tacked on a custom prayer at the end asking God to grant me the power of flight. Still waiting on that, God! But, anyway, i pretty much never went to church.

Which isn't to say i never went to a church. On the contrary, churches were one of the most popular destinations for our family when on vacation or visiting new and different cities. Especially in Europe, churches are some of the best-preserved and most historic buildings. And Catholic churches are by far the best churches, dripping with gold and jewels and the sort of finery that common people would never have had the chance to experience before the era of mass production.

Anyway, something neat about the current era - that is, the corona era - is the cyberspacing of what used to be largely meatspace events. Like funerals.

I've only been to one funeral in my life, of a friend of mine who committed suicide. I am a shitty friend because i already forgot her name, despite being one of her bridesmaids, but for fuck's sake, it was over 15 years ago. Most other deaths in my life happened to people on the other side of the world from me, or to people whose conservative families didn't want their kid's drug addicted and/or gay friends to attend the funeral. To be honest, i kinda think funerals are a waste of time and money. I went to one. It was awkward.

Oh, wait, now i'm remembering i went to another one - my ex's grandmother. That was a fucking thing. It was a Jewish funeral, so it was the first and only time i went to a synagogue. All the men over this side, all the women over that side, the segregation was horrifying. Her family was doing the whole sitting down on a low chair thing, being brought food... that was some weird ass shit. Although i suppose Jewish people would consider transubstantiating bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ - and then eating it! - to be pretty fucking weird. Anyway, i felt even more awkward there than i did watching a priest shoehorn in some religious shit for my bisexual, atheist, suicidal friend to appease her Bible-bashing parents.

But i digress. My oma died of cancer last week and she had a corona era funeral. Which means very few people could show up to the actual service, but the church livestreamed it for the rest of us.

Dude, Catholics know how to make anything epic. Like. White and purple robes. Giant fucking stave/cross thingy with incense in it. Statues! Gold! Oil! So much opulence. Full blown monkish chanting. In Latin, for fuck's sake! Candles! Stained glass! One of the pall bearers - my holiest aunt - showed up in full nun garb! The church was built in 1394! History all up in your face! I might have enjoyed being there in real life. For the first 15 minutes, at least.

I think i might be a cultural Catholic, even though i never did any of the official Catholic things growing up (confirmation, eucharist, confession etc). I dig the aesthetic. My mother always vowed she'd never get us into Catholicism because it brought back bad memories for her... she was so traumatized that even when i played ambient or techno music with church bells in it, she'd shudder. But she still always took the time to visit cathedrals and light a candle for Maria, Mother of God. Every time i travel, i do the same.

Oh, interesting thing about the funeral, during shout-outs to foreign family, i discovered that my sister has a child. I guess that shows how much contact we have with one another, eh?

So, yeah, the funeral happened. And so my connection to Catholicism, and the Netherlands, is pretty much severed. Some of my aunts and cousins still live there, but with Brexit over and not having any direct bloodline back to the low countries, all i got left is a useless fluency in the language and the childhood memories my aunts talked about and my mother passed on to us - reading fairytales, building blanket forts, playing with Lego, eating bread rolls, enjoying ice cream with an umbrella in the V&D (department store) cafeteria.

Listening to my family talk about my oma helped me to see the cultural things that we had in common. Living free and independent after a divorce is something i am proudly taking into the third generation. Drinking a coffee every morning. Reading the newspaper every day. Playing a musical instrument. This is all from my mom's side.

My dad's side is where the alcoholism, boisterousness and wanderlust comes from.

But, really, this funeral was the Brexit funeral for me. My European heritage disappearing into the ether. I only got my British colonial heritage left now. Funerals ain't all bad. Deze was nodig.

Ugh, fuck fucking Brexit. Truly the worst political event that has happened in my life.

Meanwhile, i spoke with my old boss from Germany yesterday, and agreed to do some freelancing. I don't really want to go back to "real" work, but also with this pandemic stretching out well into 2021, i figure i might as well use the limbo i'm stuck in to earn a bit of cash. I hope it doesn't bust all of my sabbatical dreams. Sif fucking Brexit and the pandemic didn't already do a good enough job.

Bye, oma, voor nu. Dankjewel.
Tags: family, funeral, looking back

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