adriana suriano
4 min readFeb 19, 2024


Today is the day of my mother’s birth. Since she is on longer on this complicated earth with me, i do what she would want me to do. I go to mass at her favorite Catholic Church in an outfit she would approve.

I walk up the long hill from the parking lot to the front of the church. I actually do not know what entrance to enter. I know. That sounds ridiculous. But there are so many doors. The mass is in the crypt area of the church.

I find the sign that says crypt with an arrow that guides me to the right door. I’m in. I feel like a fucking idiot that I’m actually proud of myself for finding the right door. This doesn’t actually surprise me. In life, I tend to need the walking part of maps to not get lost in the city I have lived for 27 years.

This church is stunning. The times my mother made her bi-annual pilgrimage here, she always showed it respect. My mother always all black to honor her family who died. She took the 2 1\2 hour bus ride with a cooler full of food for myself, her friend from the church, and me. When she first started her pilgrimage, we stayed at the church for hours. Standing. Kneeling. Sitting. More standing. After a couple of years, my mom would look at me with her brown eyes that bore witness to much suffering and say, “wanna go grab a cappuccino?” The pilgrimages led to less time in her favorite church and more time riding in an Uber showing my mom why I never moved back closer to her.

I am never late. Today I am late. It took me so fucking long to find the chapel, that the altar boys and priests were lining up to start mass. I find a sit at the end of the pew so in case I want to leave, I can.

The pews were getting full, so I slide over closer to a young man. Maybe in his 20’s. I smile. He smiles back. He has a pamphlet about today’s mass and a candle. I am impressed he has a candle with him. Probably to remember a loved one. Why didn’t I think to do that?

A nun slides in next to me on the other side. I smile. She sort of smiles back. She is short. Very short. When I look down she has a candle too. I am starting to think this must be a private mass for someone who died. Fuck. On the day of my mother’s birth, I do not want to sit in a mass for another person’s death.

The priest lines up. The altar boys and less prominent priests line up behind him. The man with the booming voice starts singing. I don’t think my mother would approve of me asking a nun to move so I can leave the mass. So I sit. Throw a tropical raspberry starburst in my mouth and wait.

A lay person comes around with a little candle to light all of ours. Fuck. I don’t even have a candle. The nun smiles and hands me hers. She pops in and out of the pew with another. “Thank you so much!” She smiles. I realize I said that way too enthusiastically.

Alright Adriana, now you have a candle. You are in a mother approved outfit. You have her jewelry on. Now sit down and sit still.

The priest began by saying this was a special mass for the day baby Jesus was acknowledged as the son of god. 40 days from the day of Jesus’ birth. Or something like that. Thank fucking god. This is a special mass. The candles signify the light that led the way to the intro between Jesus and god. Or something like that.

Catholic masses are usually 45 minutes. When I go to church with my dad out of respect we always leave after communion. My dad complains that if we don’t leave early then it will be a nightmare leaving the parking lot. I find his argument funny, as my dad lives in a suburb with a church parking lot that is never really that full.

I don’t have a pamphlet. I don’t know any of the special songs for today. Some of the responses have changed since I am not a practicing Catholic. We have instructed not to blow out the candle until the priests instructs us. Wax is on my thumbs but it could be worse.

I am hoping communion is soon. I am emotionally exhausted and have get back to an emotionally exhausting job. A few rows ahead of me, I see a man’s pamphlet has caught on fire. Catholics are so stoic no one comes to his rescue. The man waves the pamphlet in circles and his pew buddy steps on the burning ashes. Just like that. The fire indecent is over. I am so glad my pew buddy the very short nun did not bring me one. Soon after, communion happens, I do the sign of the cross, light a $5 candle in my beautiful mom’s honor, and walk out. I find my out of the church to the parking lot with ease. I walk slowly to my car feeling my mom’s presence next to me. Holding my hand. Picking lint of my black blazer. Telling me she loves me. Me telling her, I live everyday in honor of her.



adriana suriano

i am a first generation italian-american who grew up in southern new jersey. Life is amazingly beautiful and devastating. Sometimes in the same day.