I was glad that no one said to me “She’s in a better place.” at my mom’s viewing or funeral. I get burned out as hell from that kind of stuff living here in the Bible Belt. Also, it would have been flippant of me to answer, “No, actually there is no better place than Jersey.”

When I was a kid, part of the wake and funeral was picturing the deceased in the foyer in Heaven. With the newcomer all dressed up, significant people dressed in white robes would come from all directions, saying “Long time no see!” The same thing would be going on up there that was happening in the funeral parlor—hugs, handshakes, pats on the back, and a lot of animated catching up.

I still default to that image, and then realize I don’t believe in it anymore. Let me rephrase that. It’s my blog so I can and will. I don’t believe in that physically anymore.

During the last conversation I had with my mom, she told me she was looking forward to meeting the infant son she lost and seeing her mom, dad, husband, brother, and sisters. I wasn’t just going along with her when I told her it would be great. There is more to my mom than 1925 to 2011. There is more to my infant brother than July 3 to July 5. There is more to my uncles, aunts, cousins, you, and me.

My loneliness responds well to the spiritual, the arts, and the theories. But there is a limit of how much they can scratch the itch while we’re living in this physical world. This is the challenge of those left behind by death, divorce, or any other loss.

Which is why a 58-year-old ex-Christian still has an image of her mom in a blue dress having a highball with her dad in a white robe.