This I Believe

Rowie - Pacifica, California
Entered on January 4, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in death.

I will die. You will die. Whether I believe in God or not, I will die. Everyone dies.

I don’t have any power over death. The only control I have is what will be on my headstone, which depends on how I lived. I could choose to live in truth or in denial.

Before my physical death, I would have died many metaphorical deaths. I die in my perfectionist world when I have to admit to coworkers or friends that I made a mistake. I die in my parenting world when I fail to act in loving and nurturing ways towards my son. I die in my self-centered world when I am forced to respond to changes in my environment.

In 2003, I died to the world that I carefully constructed over 39 years. I was already married and had been a child protection worker for 6 years. My husband and I had a three-year-old son and owned our home. That was the year that my youngest sister, then almost 21-years old, disclosed that a priest sexually abused her when she was 12. This disclosure pushed me to deal with my own abuse at the hands of two priests sixteen years earlier. One of the priests who abused me is the same priest who perpetrated my sister’s abuse.

For sixteen years, I lived in denial of the sexual abuse I suffered from these priests. It was easy to deny because it started when I was already 23 years old. I convinced myself that it was consensual. Moreover, I thought that no one would believe me if I reported the perpetrators because priests are considered “holy” in the Catholic community. I kept this secret from my family and friends, except from my husband. I was determined to take it to my grave. I also thought that I had moved on since I was able to do what “normal” adults do with their lives–find a stable job, have a family, buy a house, etc.

I died in my world of denial that year. I was forced to face the truth that I was a victim of clergy sexual abuse. I had to deal with guilt for not telling my family, which might have protected my sister. I also had to grapple with shame. I worked as a parish youth minister for about ten years, and I was supposed to guide the young people in living the Catholic life. But I did not “walk the talk”.

It has been almost four years since my sister’s disclosure. I have been in therapy for that long to help me peel off the layers of denial that contributed to my abuse. I still die each time I talk about it. But speaking the truth gets easier every time. I hope that before I reach my physical death bed, I would have died all my metaphorical deaths so I can fully live in truth.