In a beautiful section of his Confessions St. Augustine describes his mother Monica’s last days at Ostia, the seaport of Rome, where they were preparing to sail for their home in Africa. Monica, taken sick, was on her way to another homeland.
The two of them were “leaning against a window looking out on a garden…inquiring what you are and what the eternal life of the saints would be like, for ‘Eye has not seen nor ear heard no human heart conceived it’”
“For my part, my son, I no longer find pleasure in anything this life holds,” his mother said, “ What I am doing here still, or why I am still here, I do not know, for worldly hope has withered away for me. There was only one thing I desired to live for in this life: to see you a Catholic Christian before I died. And my God has granted this to me more lavishly than I could have hoped, letting me see even you spurning earthly happiness to be his servant. What am I still doing here?”
Shortly after, Monica fell unconscious from the fever.
She revived and said to Augustine and his brother at her side, “You are to bury your mother here”.
“It would be better for you to be buried in your own homeland,” his brother said to her.
“‘What silly talk!’ she replied, ‘Lay this body anywhere, and take no trouble over it. One thing only do I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.’
“Having made her meaning clear to us with such words as she could manage, she fell silent, and the pain of the disease grew worse.”
His mother’s death was a graced time when they drank in their thirst from “the fountain of life which is you”, Augustine wrote.