I’ve spent most of my adult life hoping that I was wrong. As confident as I may have appeared to be to many, I always wished for proof that what I held as truth was actually not so.
On Valentine’s Day, 2010, life showed me that I was not wrong.
I will always believe in the moveable middle. Those who are capable of being both loving and rational. Those whose lives prove that education and life experience can undo learned inequity and acquired fear. Those who know that loving others is only possible by first loving yourself.
Over the past 14 years I have told thousands of people who have taken a moment out of their life to listen to mine that there are those who are incapable of moving beyond where they are because their religious beliefs will not allow it. As consistent as I was in conveying my belief that relationships are contingent on real love that is not based on obligation or manipulation, I always wished that I had misinterpreted my own life experience.
Two years ago, when my biological (fundamentalist Baptist minister) father died from blood related cancer, I realized that my thoughts about him were true. Life was too short for him to get to a place of understanding and loving himself, let alone those around him.
It was a difficult moment of acceptance for me. I looked to the future and hoped that I would still be proven wrong.
Over the past four months I observed from a distance, the slow and menacing advance of an incurable condition in my biological mother. Regardless of my faith in the strength of the human spirit, I knew every day that soon I would be writing these words.
With her grim prognosis and her immediate inability to communicate or even comprehend what was happening to her own body, it was only a matter of time until this day would arrive.
As much as I’ve told people of my mother’s commitment to the god she believed in and how that commitment created a world in which I was not welcome as I was, I’ve always hoped that I was wrong. I hoped that somehow natural parental instinct and familial love would override everything that prohibited us from experiencing a true familial bond.
I grieve for yet another life passed without coming to an understanding of my place in it.
At this moment I look to the example that my grandmother lived. Her ability to express unconditional love to a son and daughter-in-law who believed she lived a life of sin, showed me how to truly love others, particularly those who think or speak ill of me. Her kindness to me in my days and nights of coming out eased the pain of lost relationships and gave me the courage to begin new, healthy relationships. Her simple life of loving and her display of human kindness inspired me to extend my own hand to others in need.
I’ve always secretly hoped that I would be proven wrong about my deductions. Alas, I have learned over the years that while some people are capable of change, there are others who simply are not.
More than any other moment in my life I am grateful not only for my grandmother and her life of transparency but for the lessons I learned through her example.
So I wasn’t wrong. For some, there are not enough minutes in a lifetime to move past self-imposed obstacles. While it is never an easy thing to learn of the end of a life, I look to my grandmother’s life example which is carried forward every day in the actions I take. The work that I do is only done because of her influence on my heart. She was proof that I was right that there are those who are capable of understanding the lives of others and that there is such a thing true familial love. It is her mercy and her grace toward others that set the example for me to follow for the rest of my life.