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wake

A week ago today I had the misfortune of attending a Catholic wake... a very Catholic wake. It was on the occasion of the death of a great-uncle, my maternal grandmother's younger brother. His death was very sudden, and hard on the heels of the death of his own daughter about a month before from cancer. It was a very sad occasion for his wife, certainly. She was obviously still numb.

I have to admit, though, that while it was nice to see relatives I had not seen in some time, and many of them only at extended family reunions, the Catholicness of it finally got to me.

About an hour into the meeting and greeting, the priest arrived, and the family gathered for prayer. I expected this. They had done the same thing at my grandfather's more Protestant funeral. However, I had had the good fortune of fleeing to the outdoors on that occasion with several aunts and uncles. This time, I was stuck in the back of the room as they began the rosary. I tried to escape to the outside room, but by the 11th Hail Mary, I had to go outside.

My mother talked me back inside once the rosary was complete, but then the priest was still going on with his prayers, and I admit that I found myself just getting angry. My mother was angry that the priest took so much time away from the family comforting each other, but I was angry at the prayers. I'm sure they were meant to be comforting to believers, but I could not contain the eye-rolls at first, and the blood-boiling rage I felt, nor could I conceal the frown creasing my face. Every word out of the priest's mouth just made me angrier and angrier. I found myself how he could prey on these people in their grief and tell them such an obvious lie, that Uncle Paul was safely in heaven, when the cold truth was that he would soon be worm food. He was telling these people everything was right with the world, as if to tell them they did not have a right to grieve for he was happily in heaven with his Maker. No one talked about the good life he had led, his joyfulness, or his kindness. No one talked about what a good father he had been to his children. No one talked about the good truths that could be shared and celebrated. Instead, they were greeted with lies.

There have been very few times in my life when religion has outraged me more, and there could not have been a worse time to express that outrage.

Truth is not always pretty or pleasant. But truth, however harsh, is better than a lie, even a very pleasant one.

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