After my mother died in October 2011 from cancer, I threw myself into cleaning her home. The last six months of her illness she hadn’t able to do any housework. As I cleaned in every corner, I contemplated the afterlife, wondering whether she was in heaven or purgatory and weighing her many virtues compared to her faults. Engrossed in organizing and dusting, I would unexpectedly happen upon books on purgatory and each time I felt jarred — wondering if it was a coincidence or message.
My mom had a strong devotion to the holy souls and prayed for them often. Even before she became ill, she would tell us to make sure that the priest who buried her did not eulogize about her saintliness. She was brought up to believe that Catholics had a duty to pray for the dead, and not only was it our obligation; it was our privilege.