I was asked, not unkindly, about my "attachment" to Andrew's death. This came up because I was remembering the events of a year ago, thinking of Andrew's family, and what has happened in my own life since then. I have never attempted to make more of my relationship to Andrew than what it was. It was nothing more than a casual aquaintance of a relative by marriage. But, it would be wrong to say I was not moved. I had the bird's eye view to grief and frankly, it seems a bit disrespectful to not stop, if only for a moment, to examine my own story.
Shortly after Andrew's death, Minnesota decided that we must vote this fall on whether or not to put a Marriage Amendment in our state constitution. Until this time, I had given little thought to my sister's coming out story. My parents just loved her, there was little drama on their end that we know of, and life ambled on. In fact, I had to ask Angie if I was remembering things correctly. She laughed because the details were fuzzy to her as well. This seems a bit funny now given what we know....which is that there is no shortage of heartbreak in young gay people who are hoping to be loved and accepted for who they are. This isn't to say that Angie's story to self-discovery wasn't tough. Only she can truly speak to that, but the last thing she needed to worry about was the acceptance of those who really loved her. None of that changed.
So if Andrew's death has done anything for me, it has made me realize that my parents have given me the ultimate gift in teaching me that you just love your kids for who they are.
As a parent myself, I see now how priceless this is. It is hardhardhard when you see qualities and traits in your child that you don't identify with or...even worse...when the qualities and traits of yourself get magnified through your child. You want to tell them how to be and how to act in order to avoid heartbreak. But the gift of age is the wisdom in knowing that the only way a person can truly be happy is to be who they are rather than fight it. Good parents know this and what is left for a parents to do, then, is love and be there when needed.
For years, I have walked around carrying this gift lightly, almost with disregard.
But I am no longer a fool.
Since February 27th, I have met people who have not been loved and accepted, I have listened to young kids mourn the loss of families they used to have. I have met people who have literally altered the course of their entire family's lives simply because they could not accept the fact that their child is gay.
This breaks me. It makes me sad and angry and disgusted and I want to pound the walls and hurl heavy objects through glass.
I do none of this. Instead, I hug my own kids tighter. I listen closely to things that go unsaid when my students talk. And I keep my voice present for those who don't feel like they have one.
It's not much, but it's what I have.
It would be easy to say that my actions would be the same had I not attended that military funeral a year ago. However, that cold windy day woke up something within me. I guess if you want to call it an attachment you can.
But really what I was given was a gift...one I have chosen not to squander.