Death in the Family when there’s More than One Religion Involved

Death it doesn’t get any easier. Apparently writing things down may help (well obviously) and it also said this in the waiting area in Intensive Care.

iv bag
Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

Where to Start. Well let’s go back twenty years when my own mother died. In fact it was in exactly the same intensive care unit as I spent some time last month. Again completely out of the blue. My mother’s death obviously leaving a massive hole in my life – but it also left me with the need to tell about my abuse. You see whilst my mother had been alive I had protected her from knowing – I thought that she had been through enough.

The youngest age I remember telling someone I had been abused was five years old – and from that point until I was twenty no-one had helped me, no-one had cared. Now with the death of my mother a new figure really stepped into my life and did care and supported me.

When I turned twenty-one she bought me a key necklace just like the eighteen one my own Mother had got me. At Christmas she filled black bags full to the top for presents for my then almost three year old son. From then on in she always called me regularly to check how I was – even though I was absolutely useless at doing the same.

lady on mobile
Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

When social services got involved and my life was falling apart she was there. Unfortunately her own daughter had caused her untold misery so she had information to help me too. It was lovely to hear that her daughter had recently tried to make amends and said sorry.

Then she told me how her daughter had decided to become Muslim and was having an arranged marriage. Our family our Catholics* so this was something that she had just come to accept for the sake of her relationship with her daughter. I had been told that her daughter had asked her to convert but that she really wasn’t interested. In fact I would say she was very strongly Catholic, whereas most of the rest of the family didn’t seem that interested in religion at all.

muslim woman behind a leaf
Photo by kilarov zaneit on Unsplash

When her own Mother died and I tried to make more of an effort – birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas. But she always seems to contact me first and I felt guilty for not making the time. Just this last month on the anniversary of her mother’s death I only managed to leave her a Facebook message rather than finding time to call.

Then came the news, she was really ill in hospital. There was a lot of confusion about which hospital she was in and where but eventually I located her to the Intensive Care Ward where my own mother had died.

Just walking back in there made me feel ill: Dizzy and sick. The first time I went up we had had some trouble with our teen and so it was very late. The hospital was about an hour from our house but they would only let me see her (sleeping) for a couple of minutes. I stayed sitting with her daughter for a few hours – remembering how hard it was to be a young woman with your mom like that (I was 20 and her daughter is 22). I brought her up some food and made sure she ate some too. I tried really hard to understand things about her religion, making sure I didn’t bring the wrong food, finding out about the prayers and such like; and generally asking if there was anything that made the situation different.

muslim building
Photo by Izuddin Helmi Adnan on Unsplash

The next day my husband brought me back up to the hospital again (his Nan having the children for us once again). People said she had deteriorated and she was awake with this mask on, struggling to breathe. I will never forget how scared she seemed.

Another few days went by and I got an early morning call to say that they wanted to induce her into a coma, that she had requested it knowing that she may never wake up from it. That she wanted her daughter to let her go because she couldn’t breathe.

I dropped everything and caught a train (and bus) to the hospital. I stayed there all day and it wasn’t looking promising. I didn’t know whether to stay and be there for her daughter or go home to be there for my family. I felt absolutely drained and knew I had to go home.

I regularly checked on how she was doing and passed this information on. But just three days after my last hospital visit I received messages making it clear that it was obvious I hadn’t been told the news. I tried ringing the daughter for confirmation but there was no answer. Eventually someone else phoned and confirmed things for me.

Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

Later that night things took a turn for the worse when her ex-husband phoned me and told me that the daughter had phoned the police on him accusing him of assault after her mother died. That she had taken the key off him for her mother’s flat and would not let him back in (he had been staying there and his belongings were there too).

It was the next evening before the daughter finally called me to tell me of the news. The weirdest call ever with her just telling me she didn’t know what to say with lots of silence. I just put it down to a young woman being in shock at suddenly losing her mother.

I took my boys on holiday – which wasn’t all that far away. And on the Thursday morning I received a message just asking me if I was still on holiday. My reply, and further replies have just being ignored. Thursday afternoon a family member randomly posted on Facebook again about the loss of this much loved person and I knew something wasn’t right. Then I got the call.

Muslim lady in white surrounded by red leaves
Photo by AHMAD AZWAN AZMAN on Unsplash

Apparently our very much strongly catholic relative had converted to Muslim but did not want to tell anyone. Her wishes to be buried with her Mother’s ashes supposedly no longer a thing (even though she hadn’t sorted out scattering them before converting). No not only had an Islamic funeral been arranged but we hadn’t been told. Family and friends unable to say goodbye.Strangely the will has disappeared too – but I don’t really care about any estate. Just upsets me to think that it might not have really been what she wanted. And that people who cared about her deeply never got a chance to pay their last respects.

In fact it is only today we have had confirmation as to when and where. Even then it is because someone went out investigating and asking around and not because we have been told. I am trying not to feel angry because it will not help anyone. I just wish we had been told. At least now we know we can begin to grieve. But finally we do not know what has happened to the ashes of her mother and we are worried what may have happened to them.

*I have added this here to say that when I say my family our Catholics that, apart from the deceased, we were not practising. I think my own mother this was due to the death of my brother, who was only 6 years old. Her cousin organised the last right’s at my mother’s funeral – and we didn’t object because if her religion brought her comfort then so be it. But really we aren’t religious so it didn’t matter which religion she chose. I am just upset that even now I haven’t been told that the funeral has happened (to the point of being directed elsewhere when asking someone directly!). That someone has had to physical go to crematoriums and ask! I just would like to know why we aren’t allowed to know. It feels wrong.


2 thoughts on “Death in the Family when there’s More than One Religion Involved”

  1. What an awful situation. It must be hard enough to see your family member in hospital like that and to know that they’ve died, without the added stress of nobody keeping you informed of the funeral arrangements. Hope you are feeling OK. x

  2. We has a family.loved auntie carolyn very very much who suffered dearly and was the process those close to her was very sad upset because not only she was frightened before.she died not.being allowed to say goodbye and remember her kindness and care xxxx


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