The leader of the cult was my mum. At her funeral, one of her supporters cursed at me.The Reveal at My Mother’s Funeral: Unveiling Her Secret

On that gloomy day, as I gathered with other mourners for my mother’s funeral, I had no idea I was about to learn a startling reality. My mother had been a cult leader, leading her unique blend of Judaism, Jesus, and self-proclaimed divinity without my knowledge while the funeral ceremonies progressed.

Her ardent followers affectionately referred to her as “Momma,” she and her husband held their services on their property in a triple-wide mobile home. She dictated who they should marry and what occupations they should pursue, and even changed their names in her capacity as their spiritual advisor. She played Solomon in Drag for the South due to the scope of her influence.

I could feel the buzz of excitement and skepticism as I made my way inside the crowded triple-wide. All eyes were on me since I was considered my mother’s reincarnation and may take on her role anytime.

I moved boldly along the center aisle, dodging the looks, and sat in the first row of an uncomfortable chair. Amid her followers’ intense focus, my husband firmly gripped my hand and offered a calming presence.

Tallises, white fabric strips with blue Stars of David stitched embellished the dais. A picture of Jesus was among them, signifying the blending of religions that comprised my mother’s doctrine.

My mother’s husband, known to the genuine believers as “Daddy,” presided over them from a magnificent, ornately carved chair on the platform in the front. The congregation started singing as he raised his voice, harmonizing the verses of my mother’s beloved hymn, a joyful homage to Jesus.

After the ceremony, the crowd gathered around me as my spouse walked to the coffee urn. A kind middle-aged woman who was one of my mother’s supporters said my mother would have been proud of my success as a businessman. Another person awaited my time to speak with me with much anticipation.

She leaned in close and grabbed my hands tightly, her hair producing a pleasant scent that drifted across the air.

She grabbed my hands more tightly and whispered, “You’ve deeply hurt your mother,” ignoring my attempts to get free. “I curse you, and on Mother’s Day, I’m going to go to her grave and tell her to damn you,” she said. When our eyes connected, he went through the crowd to stand beside me while I searched the room for my spouse.

I pleaded with her, “Please release my hands,” but she clutched to them obstinately, her voice venomous. “Be aware that these curses cause every bad thing that happens to you.” She then left the area through the triple-wide entrance.

I stayed fixed on the spot, dumbfounded and in wonder. I was led outside and into our waiting car by my husband. My brother contacted me about our mother’s will a few weeks later. The opening statement said, “I have two naturally born children; neither shall inherit from me.” She then gave my brother a couple of meaningless pennies.

Before accepting her position as a cult leader, my mother was an excellent model with lovely, slim legs. She drew people in with her alluring smile and halo of fluffy white hair but kept them at a distance, never making her actual motives known.

On the other hand, I won awards at scientific fairs, spelling bees, and even the tallest student competitions, thanks to my overbite. (In third grade, I argued that I was taller than the girl in front of the line and took her seat.) Despite this, my mother’s attention was always drawn to herself as she looked in the mirror.

There was only one way to get her disapproving attention, though. As a teenager, it happened during a contentious debate in the bathroom. She yelled that you are a child of the devil, losing her cloying Southern accent. I promise you you will never experience the same affection as your brother.

I shoved her because I was angry, which made her lose her balance and fall into the bathtub. We never brought it up again since we were so humiliated.

I cut off communication with my mother at the age of 40 and told her not to get in touch with me. It was sixteen years before my brother eventually made that call when I last heard her voice. She was getting close to the end of her life because of the heavy toll her dementia had taken. Would I ever get in touch with her again? I thought about the numerous incarnations of myself because I didn’t want to feel resentful.

“Hello,” said my brother. “Let me go get your mom.”

When the phone switched hands, her voice came on, still spidery but recognizable as hers. As I listened, my throat constricted.

I could say “Ma” while hearing her gasp on the other end. “I wish you a safe trip wherever your journey takes you, and I want to express my gratitude for being your mother.”

I gripped the piece of paper containing my appreciation list with trembling hands. I was curious to know if she understood all I said. I thanked her for teaching me to read—a priceless gift that had frequently saved me—and for the hand-drawn pictures she had placed in my childhood lunchbox.

I also thanked her for her propensity to converse with people she encountered while shopping at Piggly Wiggly. After I was done, the two of us had a profound stillness.

I did tell my mother, “I love you,” at last.

When my mother appeared, it was as if she had just surfaced from the ocean’s depths.

Just after Mum’s Day, my mum died the following day.

It was a connection to her until her passing, after which I terminated relations. When we spoke on the phone, for some strange reason, I was transported back to the orange velour sofa I had carried with me when I relocated to the other coast after graduation. I had memories of my passage into maturity on the couch.

She gushed during one of those calls, “I’ve met the most amazing man.” Her speech was easy to follow and descended like a spiral staircase.

I was unaware of this beforehand. She had split up with my father less than six months earlier.

She spoke in my ear, and I winced at her honeyed accent. When we relocated to Georgia, she had lost her Orthodox Jewish upbringing in New Jersey and was gradually becoming a Southern belle.

Her decision to color her hair a bombshell blonde instead of the customary Northeast black was the first step, followed by the accent. She was particularly adept at adopting several personas while among guys.

My stomach began to turn as her voice surrounded me and now had a rich falsetto inflection. “Darling, he is gorgeous. He’s tall and quite talented with his hands,” she sighed. She had no romantic interest in me. Why did she give me this information?

I cut the call short because I was worried about when my husband would get home and how I would explain this confusing talk to him.

“Mama, what in the world are you talking about?” I spoke while touching the velvety texture of the orange velour sofa arm with my fingertips.

She described how this figure descended from the ceiling into her bedroom. He wore a white robe fastened at the waist, and any breeze was not ruffling his long, wavy brown hair. His intensely loving stare moved her as he looked at her.

She stated, “It was Jesus,” as if I had already known this.

Questions came at me in waves. How did a Jewish woman from New Jersey who was a Southern belle discover Jesus in her bedroom? I didn’t press her any further. But I did question if someone like Hitler if he joined Jesus on his deathbed, would go to heaven.

She answered in a wavering voice, “Yes.” My tummy constricted.

And will a good rabbi go to hell if he rejects Jesus? I paced the kitchen while holding the phone tightly out of concern that it may crack.

My mother’s enthusiastic response surprised me. I had no idea she would eventually encounter sincere Christians who would shower her with the praise she had trouble finding in me but could readily find in her mirror.

Mother’s Day is about to arrive once more. I picture her disciple, who cursed me, kneeling by my mother’s grave with a dozen flower bouquets. Will I hear their moans in my dreams?

My heart aches when I think of what my mother might have said about me to merit such a curse.

As a sign of undying love that endures the test of time, as opposed to withering roses, it is customary in Judaism to place a rock on top of the headstone when paying homage to the departed.

I now realize that my mother will always hold a special place in my heart, even in broken parts. And her follower doesn’t need to trash me on Mother’s Day because of that unending devotion. The greatest curse is that a jagged sliver of love for my mother will always be stuck within me, like a rock on a tombstone, like a lingering ghost.