Contributed by Kay Goodnow
And then I had the dream.
I was standing in a room. I thought it was a hospital room, but there was a nightstand next to the bed. On it was a green plant, a philodendron, and I knew that it was dying. The room was darkened by curtains that covered the windows. It was quiet there, no sound at all. I was neither cold nor warm but I felt surrounded by the silent darkness, as by fog in the early morning.
I stood there, unmoving. As my eyes adjusted I noticed a wheelchair next to the window. It was facing me, facing the middle of the room. I did not feel fear, and so I took a few steps forward, closer to the man who sat in the wheelchair.
He was covered with a blanket, a plaid blanket. I remember noticing red stripes against a brown background. The blanket had been pulled up nearly to his chin but his hands were free and they moved slowly, as though playing with the blanket's fringe that lay across his chest.
His hands were just as I remembered them; slender, with long and graceful fingers. They were pale, nearly white, translucent with age. I knew who he was even before I looked into his face. Long ago, he had been my priest.
I smiled and said, “Hello, Jack. I am Kay London Goodnow. How are you?”
I realized that he could hear me, because he looked into my eyes. I felt him recognize me. And then I saw that I was dressed in my Catholic school uniform, that I was 15 years old again. I knew that my hair was blonde, my posture erect and full of grace from years of ballet exercises. I started to move forward, because I wanted to hug him, to assure him that I am fine, just fine, that I had survived the life to which he had condemned me.
He made a motion with his hand to stop me. It was a signal for me to stay where I was and I responded to it immediately. I watched him breathe, one slow breath after another, and then he looked directly at me again.
“I recognize you, Honey,” he said. “I have been expecting you. It took you a long time to get here but I knew all along that you would come.”
I felt pleased that his mind was clear, his speech distinct and that he seemed rational. I started to speak, tried to talk but nothing would come. There were so many things I wanted to tell him about the past fifty-odd years, and they rushed through my head like waves pounding on a beach before a hurricane. But I could not begin. I was waiting, as in the past, for him to lead so that I could follow. I watched him silently. I looked into his eyes and they seemed as blue as they had been when first I had fallen in love with him. I managed another step forward and yes, his eyes were blue, but lifeless.
“Honey,” he said, “I am old and there is little time. I have waited a long time for you to ask what it is that you have to ask and for you to say what it is that you want to say.”
I remained where I was, 15 years old, still in my uniform. There was more light in the room now. I became aware that it was coming from me, that it surrounded me. The dim outlines that had prevailed earlier were sharpening now. Behind his wheelchair an altar was visible, covered with a long white cloth. Vigil lights burned brightly in the far corners of the room, twinkling gold, red and white. I could smell incense, that faint, vaguely sweet smell that followed the Benediction service. I could hear the organ and the choir of young female voices: Tantum ergo sacramentum…
Still I didn’t move. I sensed that I had been given a second chance. I felt stronger now, the 15-year-old was moving forward in time, accelerating at a tremendous rate of speed. The wife-mother-grandmother that I am now stood there, watching him. As the memories flashed past, and with them the pain, the struggle to comprehend, the years and years that it had taken to empower that 15-year old and force her into assuming responsibility for herself… and I understood.
The room had become considerably brighter, even though the curtains were still closed and the lights were still off. The confusion of who I was cleared from my brain and with it, the darkness cleared from the room. I stepped forward once more.
“There is just one question that must be asked,” I said, and I smiled. “I would like to know, Jack, why you did this to me?”
I saw a spark of life as his eyes briefly glimmered icy, steely blue. He sat upright in his wheelchair, straightening his shoulders. He stopped fingering the blanket fringe and rested his hands one atop the other. He looked at me, and I knew that my smile had struck him to the core.
“I did it, Honey,” he said, “Because I could.”
I turned and I walked out of that room, along a corridor, and I passed what I thought was a nurses’ station. I knew that it wasn’t, because there was a priest standing there, his white collar contrasting with his stark black suit.
“He died early this morning, I am sorry,” the priest said to me. “I know that it was important to you that you talk with him. Shall we pray now, my dear?” He reached forward to take my hand.
I moved away from him. I smiled. “Pray if it will make you feel better,” I said to this man whose aura was not favorable to those of us who trust ourselves. “God is here with me now as He always is. God alone is the final authority.” I was still smiling. I felt like jumping into the air and yelling, “I did it! I am free! I am alive and well and happy!” I felt like doing a cartwheel and handstands, I felt like playing a concert grand piano in Carnegie Hall and figure skating at the Olympics. The priest didn’t speak and I walked away. I went on down that long hall, half walking and half skipping. I went through the last remaining door and found myself in my own room, at home, in bed.
It was nearly dawn when I was fully awake, and as I communicated my joy to the life force in all of us, I felt the light from those who have survived from the dawn of time on this world and in this universe and even some from beyond this universe. I felt the light of survivors of the present and those of the future. We are all one, after all, and when Creator/God/Life Force is in our core, what more do we need?
I neither sense, nor do I feel, any darkness at all. It’s out there, I know that, and it has my permission to remain there. It no longer has any power over me and I am long overdue for a trip into my own future.
Editor's Note: As adolescents we were each vulnerable for years while we submerged our child self and grew our adult personality in its place. We trusted key adults to guide us through these years, during which we had the life-forming experience of first love. Now imagine yourself as a devoutly Catholic adolescent, completely seduced by your 35-year old priest, who eventually abandons you when the Church moves him to his next parish, leaving you wounded emotionally, sexually, and spiritually, and silenced because nobody talked about such things back then, and because everybody would have blamed (and shamed) you. Kay Goodnow has survived and decades after her experience, has become active in SNAP and Link-Up, organizations of those who have been abused by clergy. - Scooper