When Past and Present Converge
by, 16-Jul-2016 at 16:09 (275 Views)
[QUOTE=Starrunner;1379934]I truly am sorry for your loss.
Last year, I got a call from David's mother, Loretta. She was calling to tell me her husband, Orion, had passed away after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer. Loretta wanted me to attend the funeral service even though I hadn't been in touch with the family for a very long time. I was honoured and humbled that she still thought of me, even in such a time of loss.
Loretta's son, David was my partner back in the late 1970's. Like many other gay couples in those days, we lived in a very closeted relationship. Eventually David committed suicide because of the pressure of keeping our relationship hidden from the world. While he was alive, we were happy together, and I particularly enjoyed the time we spent with his parents, Loretta and Orion. They were the most loving, caring and supportive parents any child could ever ask for. My own father was abusive and there was no love in my family, so being accepted into David's family was the first time I had felt a sense of belonging. I always wondered if they suspected we were in a gay relationship, but we never talked about it. When David committed suicide, I was devastated, and as much as I felt my own personal loss, I was keenly aware of how his death affected his parents, with Loretta blaming herself and Orion blaming the doctors overprescribing medication for depression. I blamed our relationship and myself. At the funeral, they insisted I sit with David's immediate family. We all moved on with our lives afterwards, but we never got over it, not completely.
And now, after all these years, I was being asked to rejoin this family again that I had not seen for a very long time. It's sad how it takes a death or a crisis to reunite people. Orion's funeral and reception was a loud, raucous affair with a church packed with beloved friends and family. Although we all deeply felt the loss of this loving husband, father, and friend, we celebrated his life and legacy, represented by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. After my own abusive childhood, I only had the fondest of memories of Orion for being the first man I had known who could be kind, gentle and caring to his children.
After the church service, family and friends gathered at the house to mourn, celebrate, share stories, reminisce, and console each other. As the night grew late, Loretta asked me to join her outside to talk. We hadn't had much of an opportunity to connect throughout the day and I didn't want to be any bother to her. I hoped she wasn't feeling obliged to spend some time with me since we were supposed to be there supporting her through her loss.
So we walked, away from the noise, the tears, the buzz and the laughter. We walked with flowers. We talked about Orion's last days. After David's sudden death to suicide, she was grateful she was there to take care of her husband through his final days and that he didn't face his death alone. He was surrounded by loved ones in his final minutes, which is all any of us could hope for. "Every death is bittersweet," she told me, leaving us with cherished memories of giving birth, being a loving wife and mother, and the life they built for themselves and their children. The beautiful memories outweigh the grief, at least in time.
I didn't offer any answers because there were none. We talked about family, loss, and transition. She is still David's mother and she is still Orion's wife. She told me that she and Orion always knew that David and I were gay and living together. They just decided to give us our own space so we could disclose it to them when we were ready. I think I always knew that. We talked about the impact of David's death and how it changed our paths in life, setting me on the road to a lifetime of advocacy work in the non-profit sector, while Loretta got involved in School Boards, advocating for more suicide prevention programs and education in the classrooms. She still speaks today to classes about suicide and her personal story.
Our lives are a journey. Death will come to all of us. So more than anything, let us live our lives with passion, and with the memories of those who loved us and influenced us to be the best human beings we can be. Let us live our lives in their honour. Let us bury our parents, for they should not have to bury their own children. And if they must outlive them, let us sit with them, in silence, and remember with them.
In loving memory: David and Orion
(adapted from a previous post: https://www.adisc.org/forum/showthread.php/101794-Rip )