As you already know, my mother passes away on May 16th. That transition brought her out of suffering and into the arms of Jesus – I believe that with all my heart. And yet, I find that this process on MY side of the peace is a bit harder. I am way more retrospective, I am sad, and of course very thankful that I was able to say what I needed to say before she went onto Glory.
Having said that, I must share without hesitation a truth about my mom, one that I have known for over 20 years, which something I didn’t hold in such regard until recently. She was someone with tons of flaws (aren’t we all?), but in one area she was always consistent and that was in the area of unconditional love. She never turned away a person from her home, she never added criteria to extend love to people, and she was someone who found good in everyone. And, she saved my life.
In my mid-twenties I came to realize that no amount of prayer was going to change the fact I was attracted to women. By this point I had been married around 5 years and Kirstie was about 3. I had spent agonizing hours crying out to God to heal me, to change me, and nothing had happened. I went to seminars at my church to “build my faith”, I attended women’s conferences to become more “A woman of God”, I constantly asked for prayer coverage and I certainly laid this before the Lord in all transparency and supplication. I even saw a special “spiritual” person who was famous for their ministry of cleansing the “sins of the fathers” so that it would not carry forward into our own lives. And yet, I felt as though I was so steeped in some sort of sin or lacked faith or was not important enough because of some failure in my life for God to heal me.
And I wanted to die. I honestly thought being on the earth was damaging those around me the most, especially my daughter. I felt I was doomed to hell anyway, so what would the final straw of suicide matter?
So I ran away from my life, not sure I could go through with suicide, but determined to rid the filth that my very existence from the presence of those I loved the most. Because, at that time all I wanted was to be love by God, be whole for Him (aka, be straight), and I knew I was failing. So I ran from my life and somehow ended up at my mom’s house. Without saying much, other than some story about dealing with “marital issues”, my mom knew something was hugely wrong. And she didn’t pry. She didn’t corner me. She just loved me. She made me coffee. She cooked for me. She sat and talked to me as she smoked her Marlboro 100’s and showed me the stray cats that ended up staying with her and her roommate. Even as I existed with these pieces of comfort, I was not peaceful – I still struggled and determined in my mind that I had to do something drastic, and all roads lacked any sort of hope.
Then one day, I remember sitting on the curb outside her house, contemplating just walking until I could not walk one step further………and she came out and sat next to me. She didn’t say a word, she just sat there. She smiled, I think she even touched me. But she didn’t speak. And before I could realize what I was doing, I said to her “Mom, I think I am gay. No, I don’t think it, I know it. I am gay.”
It felt good to get it out, to say the words, because at that moment what I was looking for was to have someone outside of myself validate the fact that I was this horrible, shameful thing that needed to disappear. I needed that one push to get me from this stagnant uncertainty of despair and get me to action.
I remember Mom not reacting. Her fact didn’t change. She looked at me and said, “Okay.” I waited, I am not sure how long, and then she said, “You are Gina. When you were just a small baby, you hated dresses with ruffles and frills. You would cry until I changed you. You were so different from your sister in that way, you wanted plain and functional dresses to wear. So I dressed you differently. You always loves playing outside and were so athletic, you still are, and you even taught yourself to ride a bike without anyone’s help. You have always stood up for the underdog, even if the bully was twice as big as you were – remember that time that boy punched you in the mouth when you were protecting your brother? – and you always like to sit and talk to Grandma and other people who are older than you are. Not many young people like that. You are a wonderful mother and a wonderful daughter and I am so proud of you. I can understand that you might think it is bad that you’re gay, that it changes you somehow. But I don’t think that is the case. You are Gina. You are my daughter. You are so many things that are wonderful. Nothing you can say will change any of those things. I love you. I will always love you.”
I remember staring out to the street, replaying those words through my head for several minutes, trying to calibrate what had just happened. I was a bit mad at first, thinking even in my expectation of her reaction, I was way off base. But as the words replayed over and over, I understood what my mom was trying to say. That it was okay. That I was okay. That maybe I was not an abomination. That even if I was gay, I was still something that could be loved. That should be loved. That there were pieces of me that brought value to the world, that not everything was measured against my sexuality. That she wasn’t going anywhere, even after I told her the horrible truth, and that in itself made me thunderstruck.
I honestly don’t remember what I said back to her. The days after that moment are somewhat of a blur to me. My life was still kind of a mess and it still took me almost 10 years to tell others I was gay and 15 for me to come out and accept it truly for myself. But in that moment, for the first time since I was about 13, I stopped hating myself. I stopped wanting to end or damage myself. I stopped feeling as though God hated me. I still prayed that He would heal me, but I didn’t picture His angry face and pointed fist directed at me. And it all started with my mom, who I knew LOVED ME, period. I am so thankful that she gave me life, twice, and taught me in not only word but in deed how to love unconditionally. I am sorry that it took me so long to share this memory with others, though I am glad she knew what a huge impact it has had on my life. I love you, Mom.