Growing up in the Catholic Church, there were several sacraments which my parents led me through. First there was my infant baptism. Then around the age of seven I made my first confession and first communion.
It was during my first confession that I ran into a big dilemma. I had no idea what to confess for my sins because I could think of nothing I’d done wrong.
At a young age, I observed my siblings closely and the consequences they’d receive as a result of their wrong doings.
I’d been dubbed the angel of the family because obedience came easy for me. I’d watched my parents dole out a good scolding or spanking to my siblings for talking back, being rude or not obeying. It made perfect sense to me that to avoid punishment all you had to do was to be good and obey. So, I did.
But, it was while I was alone, kneeling inside that confessional as a seven-year-old that I told my first lie. Even though we’d rehearsed as a class the correct words to say once inside the confessional, “Bless me father for I have sinned and this is my first confession and these are my sins,” we’d never been told what our sins might be. We’d studied the ten commandments and I remembered the word adultery, but I also knew that one was connected to adults and not children. So, I told the priest that I’d lied to my mother even though I hadn’t. Thankfully, he did not ask for any details. I was absolved of my sin and given my penance. I left the confessional feeling much worse than when I’d gone in. Lying made me feel sick.
Maybe this childhood incident is why truthfulness became so important to me. Maybe this is also why I perceived, a little later in life, the lie my mother told me.
I am not sure what motivated Mom to mute the truth of my father’s death by suicide. But she did and I knew immediately that her words were not true.
Instead of revealing the sad ending of Dad’s life as a suicide, she fabricated a story. “His heart just stopped.”
This lie created a chasm of distrust between Mom and me for years to come. The lie, also, I believe, separated our family.
The older siblings had been told the truth, while the younger ones had not. This discrepancy created discomfort for everyone. No one knew who had been told the truth and who had been told the lie. Consequently, no one could admit anything. Eventually though, everyone discovered the truth.
I’ve often wondered how different life would have been for our family if Mom had been able to tell the truth from the start. I know for me, my grieving process would have been a much shorter journey. I know for my siblings and me, we’d not been left to grieve alone.
Why bother telling the truth? Truthfulness might not be easy, but it is not as cumbersome and heavy as a lie.