Finding My Faith

How caring for my dying child carved a path to wonder, God, and the afterlife

Erin Benson

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Photo by Michael L on Unsplash

When I was eight years old, I kicked a nun. To be fair, she was chasing my best friend, Mike, around a classroom trying to whack him with her cane. To be fair to the nun, Mike and I were doing our damnedest to make the first communion classes she taught at All Saints Catholic Church a living hell. We interrupted her lessons consistently with giggles and sarcastic statements or questions like, “that makes no sense” and, “what about the dinosaurs?” The nun, uninterested in our critiques and flustered by our persistence, relegated us to opposite ends of the classroom. Her anger only fueled more insolent behavior; we found it hilarious. So when Mike and I dared to look at one another from across the room, as we did on the day of the kicking, the result was quiet sniggering that evolved into fits of laughter. Which infuriated the nun. Which made us laugh even harder. Which is why she chased Mike around the room, attempting to physically punish his insubordination when, in defense of my best friend, I kicked her as she passed my desk.

Following the kicking, our parents somehow managed to convince the authorities at All Saints to allow us to complete our first communion classes and we graduated without further incident. When my mom told me I had to wear a child-sized version of a wedding dress complete with veil for the service, I flat out refused. At eight years old, when I wasn’t wearing a one-piece TYR racing suit complete with silicone swim cap and goggles or my softball uniform, I sported jeans, t-shirts, and a neon blue baseball cap. Resolute, I told my mom I would, under no circumstances, be caught dead in a lacy, frilly, hideous gown. My mother, exhausted from countless hours of listening to me protest and desperate for a solution, ended up striking a deal with me. I could wear anything I wanted to the service as long as it was a dress. I picked out the only acceptable ensemble at JCPenny’s: a navy blue sailor frock, a white sailor hat, and lacy white gloves. A few days later, a sailor amidst a sea of child brides, I made my first confession and consumed what my lessons had taught me was the body and blood of Christ. It tasted like styrofoam and grape juice to me.

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Erin Benson

I write about trauma, grief, mindfulness, mental health, and the complexities of being human. My new book is now available on Amazon at https://qrco.de/bdXvYK