October 12, 2006

Back in a few days

I'm off for a desperately needed respite from lengthy crunch at work. I'll have some new material on Monday.

October 11, 2006

On National Coming Out Day, More People Are

In a recent survey, 83% of people who identified themselves as gay or lesbian said they are out. Also, 70% of straight adults said they know a GLBT person.

The Advocate report contains this quote:

“If seven out of 10 heterosexuals know someone who is GLBT, then many gays and lesbians are making their identity apparent as a natural part of their lives—just like their age, height, hair color, or personality,” said Mark Shields, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Project. “For most people, coming out or opening up to someone starts with a conversation. And for those interested in fostering strong, deep relationships with their friends and family, living openly often allows for closer relationships with the people they care about most.”

Just another reminder that society is not weakened when gays and lesbians come out. Society is strengthened when people accept who they are and live they lives accordingly in an open manner.

October 10, 2006

One More Day

It’s been two years since I lost my wife Bette on October 11, 2004. I still have the image burned in my mind of her lifeless body laying in our bed when I found her at home that day.

In some ways, it seems like just yesterday since we were sitting in the coffee shop at our favorite bookstore sharing articles we were reading from our different magazinzes or watching a Baltimore Ravens game together or just lying and holding each other in our bed. I can still feel her touch and see the look in her eyes, the one that told me she loved me with every fiber of her being and always would.

In other ways, though, it seems like a lifetime ago that we shared our lives with each other. A LOT has happened in my life over the last two years, and as this anniversary approached I wondered—what would I do if I had one more day with her and I could share what these last two years have been like without her. What if I could tell her what I’ve learned about myself, about our relationship, and the direction my life has gone without her.

I’d steer her away from the bookstore because there’s a lot that’s happened in the world that would really upset her. She felt at strongly as I did that our nation was heading in the wrong direction and that the Bush administration and the religious right was causing a deeper division among people, practicing exclusion instead of inclusion. We talked a lot about that during the 2004 political conventions and I was thankful she did not have to endure the reelection of President Bush.

I would bring Bette to my home where I could spend one-on-one time with her and really show her what my life is like now.

I would tell her how a day has not gone by without me missing her.

I would tell Bette how deeply I still love her and feel her love inside my heart and soul. As many of you know, I am happily remarried to Pastor Brenda and my love for her grows every time I see her, talk to her, or touch her. I don’t understand the dynamic of still loving Bette while giving myself completely to Brenda and I doubt I will ever be able to explain it, but I know it to be true.

I would show her some of my writing as evidence that I continue to pursue the dream we shared and spent so much time talking about. She would be pleased with my sportswriting and the progress I am making on my novel, and probably taken aback with my GLBT and political advocacy blogs. Since she spent a good chunk of her time before I met her advocating for disadvantaged people in Illinois and shared my perspectives regarding GLBT issues and politics, I think she would be proud that I have put myself out there to stand up for what I believe.

Bette would see a man much more at peace that he was two years ago. I had allowed myself to be beaten down by the world and had grown somewhat cynical and angry. I had lowered the bar for what I expected our of life beyond the quality time we had together. Most of that was because both of us, but especially me, had drifted away from fellowship with Jesus. I was trying to live a godly life without God’s help; a recipe for sure failure. I often felt I wasn’t as strong as I should have been in our marriage and in many ways not as good a man as she deserved. I’ve worked through a lot of that now, and I suspect she would pick up that vibe immediately—Bette always knew me better in many ways than I knew myself.

I would thank her for being the first person in my life to show me unconditional love and tell her how my life truly started the day I met her. Any happiness or success I have had since then or will have in the future has its genesis in that love and the way she showed her unwavering belief in me.

I would thank Bette for all the fun we had, often playing like little children. She was my baby girl and I was her baby boy, and we could be the happiest little orphans around. I would tell her how much I regret the time we could have had together but didn’t because I was too obsessed with work, sports, or just wanted to be by myself. The best times I had in our 12 years together were with her, not without her, and I wish I had made that a higher priority.

Bette often saw me struggle with balance in my life, and I’m doing a lot better with that these days. That is largely due to the influence of the Holy Spirit since I have embraced it as an active part of my day-to-day life. Part of that, however, is due to learning that I could withstand the worst possible thing that could happen in my life, losing her. Once that happened and I found out that I could still function, a lot of things bothered me a lot less than they used too. Surviving her passing left me with a giant dose of perspective I didn’t previously have.

I would tell her how glad I am that she experiences no more physical pain and has a peace that must surpass my understanding. She deserves to be at peace, and knowing she was made it possible for me to gradually accept her early departure from this world.

I would then introduce Bette to Brenda. I would tell Bette how much I love Brenda, and in many ways I can give and also receive Brenda’s love because of what I learned from Bette. At that point, I suspect Bette would look at Brenda and see something familiar. Bette had a way of looking at me, what she called “the Jimmy look,” that was full of passion and a totally committed, eternal love. She would probably notice Brenda gazing at me in that same way, and that look would say more than any words ever could. I expect that they would embrace and Bette would say that, as much as she wants to be with me, she will be at peace knowing I am being loved and taken care of.

As our time drew to a close, I would walk Bette to the door and pray with her, thanking God for bringing her into my life and giving her eternal life. I would then hold her like I used to, not wanting her to go but knowing she must. I would let her go, we would pledge eternal love to each other, and then her earthly body would fade away as she returns to heaven.

I would return to Brenda, hold her like I never want her to go, pledge my eternal love to her, then bury my head in her shoulders and cry like a baby; exhilarated from seeing Bette and showing her this wonderful life I have now and devastated by losing her again.

It would be then be time to look forward again, building upon the blessings that God has given me, none greater than my wonderful wife and partner Brenda who accepts and appreciates the role Bette played in my life and the love I will always have for her.

If you haven’t told the person you love how special they are to you and what makes that so, please get up from your computer right now and tell them or call them if they’re not with you.

Fortunately, I left very little unsaid with Bette. One of my best friends told me Bette’s sudden passing taught him to take more time to appreciate his wife and tell her he loves her. I know I do that with Brenda, and I hope you do also.

Don’t wait until your life is impacted by tragedy to jumpstart your life like I did. Do it now while your loved one is still here to share it. I won’t have this second chance I just wrote about, and neither will you.

October 08, 2006

"Sin is Neither Republican or Democratic"

That would probably come as a shock to many of the Republican operatives we know as the religious right. Here is a piece by author Diana Butler Bass that makes this point and more. Here's an excerpt:

"Making sexuality a political issue, as much of the Religious Right has done, distracts from a host of other issues, such as poverty, war, and environmental concerns. But it also obscures the fact that Christians agree (as my friend and I do) on many things regarding this intimate part of our lives. We agree that sexuality is a gift from God, that love and commitment are foundational to sexual expression, that marriage is the best vessel for human sexuality, and that authenticity, honesty, fidelity, and mutual regard form the basis of Christian sexual relationships. Sex is, theologically, an ultimate expression of self-giving and surrender, qualities that resemble those in Christian spirituality. As the medieval mystics taught, humanity sexuality is a metaphor for our relationship with God."

"God is, as scripture tells us, the author of all goodness. God never rejoices in sin, and we know that sin is not the exclusive possession of any political party. The darkness that stalks us is neither Republican nor Democratic. It is part of the human condition, that which makes us all cry out for compassion—and that compassion is an apt starting point for a Christian politics of grace, not partisan vindictiveness."

Doesn't that put things in their proper, balanced perspective?