C stared at the sad, wooden eyes, which would forever reach towards Heaven, begging for forgiveness. “What a gruesome image,” she thought to herself. How had she never noticed how terrifying a symbol this was- The statue of a semi-nude waif of a man looming overhead, red paint covering his hands and feet to emphasize the nails our sinning ancestors drove into his hands and feet. We gape at the photos of starving people around the world in National Geographic and dread the thought of going on any sort of vacation that might not involve running water, but will accept this figure as our savior?
Yes, it had been a while since she’d last been to mass. Approximately two years, as a matter of fact. Another cousin was getting married and not going wasn’t much of an option. She’d thought that going back to something she’d done once a week for 19 years would be a piece of cake- it would be boring, but she could fake her way through it, right? So what if she’d spent the last 10 years struggling, with herself and (especially) with her mother, over whether quitting church had been the right thing to do.
But once she’d gotten into her pew, C had a mini panic attack. She wasn’t the one getting married, and she probably wasn’t going to be the next in line either, but what would happen when (or if) that day did come? She’d never survive Pre-Cana classes and would feel like one of those dreaded false prophets for even pretending to have a slice of faith left. She certainly wouldn’t want to make all of her non-Catholic friends sit through all this incense and chanting.
Maybe it was time they all knew. Of course rumors had circulated about her church going habits- oh, she had indeed heard those “whispers” that emanated from her grandmother’s kitchen last Christmas, and now she would finally lay them to rest.
C refused to utter one single “amen,” “and also with you,” nor sing any form of “alleluia” or “praise be to god in the highest.” Before she knew it, everyone around her was uttering the Nicene Creed. To her dismay, she remembered every. single. word. Still, she held fast and allowed herself to observe the rituals as an outsider. She continued to wonder how anyone could expect her to believe in any of this.
She lapsed at one moment and kneeled with the rest as the priest and deacon prepared the Eucharist. Was she really going to do this? This was the big moment. She stood, lifted the kneeler, and waited for her row to move forward for Communion. Fear pulled at her but determination to hold her own proved firm. Her aunt turned to her with surprise when she noticed that C had sat down instead of joining the line. Her cousin looked slightly bewildered as he stepped past her- but she wasn’t too worried about him.
The family silently noticed and passed judgement (or so she had decided). “We all go through our doubting phase,” she could almost hear them saying.
It was just about time to go. The priest shared a few extra words and closed with, “The Lord be with you.” Unable to stop herself, she responded, “And also with you.” Her hands drew the sign of the cross to the rhythm of, “May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” “Amen.”
C swore to herself, smiled, then broke into laughter. It wasn’t an overly loud laugh- more of a soft chuckle, but a few of her neighbors noticed it. She laughed because one day, perhaps as many as sixty years from that particular moment, she would no longer remember the words to the Nicene Creed nor have to prevent the response, “Only say the word and I shall be healed,” from slipping off her tongue. It may not fully disappear on its own, but she’d made great strides that day.
“How did you enjoy the ceremony?” C’s great uncle asked as they exited the church.
“It was wonderful,” she replied. The smile on her face was anything but fake.
Instructions for this week’s topic were:
Writing Aventure Group Topic #31: “Laughter”. There are many types of and reasons for laughter: twitters, titters, guffaws, snickers, snorts, belly laughs and bursts of inappropriate giggles at a funeral. Laughter can mean many things and be displayed in various ways. This week write about someone (real or fictional) and a moment of mirth. Your piece can be as long or short as you want, using any form you like. No Rules! Now Write!