AUGUSTINUS


In 387 AD Monica, the mother of Augustine of Hippo, died and was buried in Ostia. The events are described by Augustine in his Confessiones.
Liber IX, 8
17. Qui habitare facis unanimes in domo, consociasti nobis et Euodium iuvenem ex nostro muncipio. qui cum Agens in Rebus militaret, prior nobis ad te conversus est et baptizatus, et relicta militia saeculari accinctus in tua. simul eramus, simul habitaturi placito sancto. quaerebamus, quisnam locus nos utilius haberet servientes tibi: pariter remeabamus in Africam. et cum apud Ostia Tiberina essemus, mater defuncta est. 17. Thou, who makest men to dwell of one mind in a house, didst associate with us Evodius also, a young man of our city, who, when serving as an agent for Public Affairs, was converted unto Thee and baptized prior to us, and relinquishing his secular service, prepared himself for Thine. We were together, and together were we about to dwell with a holy purpose. We sought for some place where we might be most useful in our service to Thee, and were going back together to Africa. And when we were at the Tiberine Ostia my mother died.

Liber IX, 10
23. Impendente autem die, quo ex hac vita erat exitura -- quem diem tu noveras ignorantibus nobis -- provenerat, ut credo, procurante te occultis tuis modis, ut ego et ipsa soli staremus incumbentes ad quandam fenestram, unde hortus intra domum, quae nos habebat, prospectabatur, illic apud Ostia Tiberina, ubi remoti a turbis post longi itineris laborem instaurabamus nos navigationi. conloquebamur ergo soli valde dulciter; et praeterita obliviscentes in ea quae ante sunt extenti, quaerebamus inter nos apud praesentem veritatem, quod tu es, qualis futura esset vita aeterna sanctorum, quam nec oculus vidit nec auris audivit nec in cor hominis ascendit. sed inhiabamus ore cordis in superna fluenta fontis tui, fontis vitae, qui est apud te; ut inde pro captu nostro aspersi, quoquo modo rem tantam cogitaremus. 23. As the day now approached on which she was to depart this life (which day Thou knewest, we did not), it fell out -- Thou, as I believe, by Thy secret ways arranging it -- that she and I stood alone, leaning in a certain window, from which the garden of the house we occupied at Ostia could be seen; at which place, removed from the crowd, we were resting ourselves for the voyage, after the fatigues of a long journey. We then were conversing alone very pleasantly; and, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before," we were seeking between ourselves in the presence of the Truth, which Thou art, of what nature the eternal life of the saints would be, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man. But yet we opened wide the mouth of our heart, after those supernal streams of Thy fountain, "the fountain of life," which is "with Thee; " that being sprinkled with it according to our capacity, we might in some measure weigh so high a mystery.

Liber IX, 11
27. Ad haec ei quid responderim, non satis recolo, cum interea vix intra quinque dies aut non multo amplius decubuit febribus. et cum aegrotaret, quodam die defectum animae passa est et paululum subtracta a praesentibus. nos concurrimus, sed cito reddita est sensui, et aspexit astantes me et fratrem meum et ait nobis quasi quaerenti similis: ubi eram? deinde nos intuens maerore attonitos: ponitis hic inquit matrem vestram. ego silebam et fletum frenabam. frater autem meus quiddam locutus est, quo eam non in peregre, sed in patria defungi tamquam felicius optaret. quo audito illa vultu anxio, reverberans eum oculis, quod talia saperet, atque inde me intuens: vide ait quid dicit. et mox ambobus: ponite inquit hoc corpus ubicumque: nihil vos eius cura conturbet; tantum illud vos rogo, ut ad domini altare memineritis mei, ubiubi fueritis. cumque hanc sententiam verbis quibus poterat explicasset, conticuit et ingravescente morbo exercebatur. 27. What reply I made unto her to these things I do not well remember. However, scarcely five days after, or not much more, she was prostrated by fever; and while she was sick, she one day sank into a swoon, and was for a short time unconscious of visible things. We hurried up to her, but she soon regained her senses, and gazing on me and my brother as we stood by her, she said to us inquiringly, "Where was I?" Then looking intently at us stupefied with grief, "Here," saith she, "shall you bury your mother." I was silent, and refrained from weeping; but my brother said something, wishing her, as the happier lot, to die in her own country and not abroad. She, when she heard this, with anxious countenance arrested him with her eye, as savouring of such things, and then gazing at me, "Behold," saith she, "what he saith;" and soon after to us both she saith, "Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord's altar, wherever you be." And when she had given forth this opinion in such words as she could, she was silent, being in pain with her increasing sickness.
28. Ego vero cogitans dona tua, deus invisibilis, quae immittis in corda fidelium tuorum, et proveniunt inde fruges admirabiles, gaudebam et gratias tibi agebam, recolens, quod noveram, quanta cura semper aestuasset de sepulchro, quod sibi providerat et praeparaverat iuxta corpus viri sui. quia enim valde concorditer vixerant, id etiam volebat, ut est animus humanus minus capax divinorum, adiungi ad illam felicitatem et conmemorari ab hominibus, concessum sibi esse post transmarinam peregrinationem, ut coniuncta terra amborum coniugum terra tegeretur. quando autem ista inanitas plenitudine bonitatis tuae coeperat in eius corde non esse, nesciebam; et laetabar admirans, quod sic mihi apparuisset, quamquam et in illo sermone nostro ad fenestram, cum dixit; iam quid hic facio? non apparuit desiderare in patria mori. audivi etiam postea, quod iam, cum Ostiis essemus, cum quibusdam amicis meis materna fiducia conloquebatur quodam die, de contemtu vitae huius et bono mortis, ubi ipse non aderam, illisque stupentibus virtutem feminae -- quoniam tu dederas ei -- quaerentibusque, utrum non formidaret tam longe a sua civitate corpus relinquere: nihil inquit longe est deo, neque timendum est, ne ille non agnoscat in fine saeculi, unde me resuscitet. ergo die nono aegritudinis suae, quinquagensimo et sexto anno aetatis suae, tricensimo et tertio aetatis meae, anima illa religiosa et pia corpore soluta est. 28. But, as I reflected on Thy gifts, O thou invisible God, which Thou instillest into the hearts of Thy faithful ones, whence such marvellous fruits do spring, I did rejoice and give thanks unto Thee, calling to mind what I knew before, how she had ever burned with anxiety respecting her burial-place, which she had provided and prepared for herself by the body of her husband. For as they had lived very peacefully together, her desire had also been (so little is the human mind capable of grasping things divine) that this should be added to that happiness, and be talked of among men, that after her wandering beyond the sea, it had been granted her that they both, so united on earth, should lie in the same grave. But when this uselessness had, through the bounty of Thy goodness, begun to be no longer in her heart, I knew not, and I was full of joy admiring what she had thus disclosed to me; though indeed in that our conversation in the window also, when she said, "What do I here any longer?" she appeared not to desire to die in her own country. I heard afterwards, too, that at the time we were at Ostia, with a maternal confidence she one day, when I was absent, was speaking with certain of my friends on the contemning of this life, and the blessing of death; and when they -- amazed at the courage which Thou hadst given to her, a woman -- asked her whether she did not dread leaving her body at such a distance from her own city, she replied, "Nothing is far to God, nor need I fear lest He should be ignorant at the end of the world of the place whence He is to raise me up." On the ninth day, then, of her sickness, the fifty-sixth year of her age, and the thirty-third of mine, was that religious and devout soul set free from the body.

Liber IX, 12
29. Premebam oculos eius; et confluebat in praecordia mea maestitudo ingens et transfluebat in lacrimas; ibidemque oculi mei violento animi imperio resorbebant fontem suum usque ad siccitatem, et in tali luctamine valde male mihi erat. tum vero, ubi efflavit extremum, puer Adeodatus exclamavit in planctu, atque ab omnibus nobis coercitus tacuit. hoc modo etiam meum quiddam puerile, quod labebatur in fletus iuvenali voce, voce cordis, coercebatur et tacebat neque enim decere arbitrabamur funus illud questibus lacrimosis gemitibusque celebrare, quia his plerumque solet deplorari quaedam miseria morientium aut quasi omnimoda extinctio. at illa nec misere moriebatur nec omnino moriebatur. hoc et documentis morum eius et fide non ficta rationibusque certis tenebamus. 29. I closed her eyes; and there flowed a great sadness into my heart, and it was passing into tears, when mine eyes at the same time, by the violent control of my mind, sucked back the fountain dry, and woe was me in such a struggle! But, as soon as she breathed her last the boy Adeodatus burst out into wailing, but, being checked by us all, he became quiet. In like manner also my own childish feeling, which was, through the youthful voice of my heart, finding escape in tears, was restrained and silenced. For we did not consider it fitting to celebrate that funeral with tearful plaints and groanings; for on such wise are they who die unhappy, or are altogether dead, wont to be mourned. But she neither died unhappy, nor did she altogether die. For of this were we assured by the witness of her good conversation her "faith unfeigned," and other sufficient grounds.
31. Cohibito ergo a fletu illo puero, psalterium arripuit Euodius et cantare coepit psalmum. cui respondebamus omnis domus: Misericordiam et iudicium cantabo tibi, domine. audito autem, quid ageretur, convenerunt multi fratres ac religiosae feminae, et de more illis, quorum officium erat, funus curantibus, ego in parte, ubi decenter poteram, cum eis, qui me non deserendum esse censebant, quod erat tempori congruum disputabam; eoque fomento veritatis mitigabam cruciatum, tibi notum, illis ignorantibus et intente audientibus et sine sensu doloris me esse arbitrantibus. at ego in auribus tuis, ubi eorum nullus audiebat, increpabam mollitiam affectus mei, et constringebam fluxum maeoris, cedebatque mihi paululum: rursusque impetu suo ferebatur, non usque ad eruptionem lacrimarum nec usque ad vultus mutationem, sed ego sciebam, quid corde premerem. et quia mihi vehementer displicebat tantum in me posse haec humana, quae ordine debito et sorte conditionis nostrae accidere necesse est, alio dolore dolebam dolorem meum et duplici tristitia macerabar. 31. The boy then being restrained from weeping, Evodius took up the Psalter, and began to sing -- the whole house responding -- the Psalm, "I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto Thee, O Lord." But when they heard what we were doing, many brethren and religious women came together; and whilst they whose office it was were, according to custom, making ready for the funeral, I, in a part of the house where I conveniently could, together with those who thought that I ought not to be left alone, discoursed on what was suited to the occasion; and by this alleviation of truth mitigated the anguish known unto Thee -- they being unconscious of it, listened intently, and thought me to be devoid of any sense of sorrow. But in Thine ears, where none of them heard, did I blame the softness of my feelings, and restrained the flow of my grief, which yielded a little unto me; but the paroxysm returned again, though not so as to burst forth into tears, nor to a change of countenance, though I knew what I repressed in my heart. And as I was exceedingly annoyed that these human things had such power over me, which in the due order and destiny of our natural condition must of necessity come to pass, with a new sorrow I sorrowed for my sorrow, and was wasted by a twofold sadness.
32. Cum ecce corpus elatum est, imus, redimus, sine lacrimis. Nam neque in eis precibus, quas tibi fudimus, cum offeretur pro ea sacrificium pretii nostri, iam iuxta sepulchrum posito cadavere, priusquam deponeretur, sicut illic fiere solet, nec in eis ergo precibus flevi: sed toto die graviter in occulto maestus eram, et mente turbata rogebam te, ut poteram, quo sanares dolorem meum, nec faciebas, credo, conmendans memoriae meae vel hoc uno documento omnis consuetudinis vinculum etiam adversus mentem, quae iam non fallaci verbo pascitur. visum etiam mihi est, ut irem lavatum, quod audieram inde balneis nomen inditum, quia Graeci balaneion dixerint, quod anxietatem pellat ex animo. ecce et hoc confiteor misericordiae tuae, pater orphanorum, quoniam lavi et talis eram, qualis priusquam lavissem. neque enim exudavit de corde meo maeroris amaritudo. deinde dormivi, et vigilavi, et non parva ex parte mitigatum inveni dolorem meum, atque ut eram in lecto meo solus, recordatus sum veridicos versus Ambrosii tui: tu es enim, deus, creator omnium polique rector vestiens diem decoro lumine, noctem sopora gratia, artus solutos ut quies reddat laboris usui mentesque fessas allevet luctuque solvat anxios. 32. So, when the body was carried forth, we both went and returned without tears. For neither in those prayers which we poured forth unto Thee when the sacrifice of our redemption was offered up unto Thee for her, the dead body being now placed by the side of the grave, as the custom there is, prior to its being laid therein, neither in their prayers did I shed tears; yet was I most grievously sad in secret all the day, and with a troubled mind entreated 'Thee, as I was able, to heal my sorrow, but Thou didst not; fixing, I believe, in my memory by this one lesson the power of the bonds of all habit, even upon a mind which now feeds not upon a fallacious word. It appeared to me also a good thing to go and bathe, I having heard that the bath [balneum] took its name from the Greek balaneion, because it drives trouble from the mind. Lo, this also I confess unto Thy mercy, "Father of the fatherless," that I bathed, and felt the same as before I had done so. For the bitterness of my grief exuded not from my heart. Then I slept, and on awaking found my grief not a little mitigated; and as I lay alone upon my bed, there came into my mind those true verses of Thy Ambrose, for Thou art "Deus creator omnium, polique rector, vestiens diem decoro lumine, noctem sopora gratia, artus solutos ut quies reddat laboris usui, mentesque fessas allevet, luctuque solvat anxios."

Translation: T. Matthew (1927).