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In honor of the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) Day of Silence on April 14, I’m uploading the middle chapters of my book Steadfast, which cover Chris’s return to Spokane and his ordeal with AIDS.

I was originally inspired to write this when I learned that while AIDS is no longer a death sentence, it is still an unpleasant disease.  And the fastest-growing segment of new patients are young gay men.  These young men missed the whole AIDS awareness campaign (remember the red ribbons?) and don’t perceive the disease as dangerous.  They haven’t heard–as we oldsters did–the call for safe sex.  (Or they learned about it in Health class, where teachers share all sorts of ideas about smoking, nutrition, adequate sleep, avoiding drugs, and other things kids tend to tune out.)

I was somewhat frightened about writing this.  My knowledge of gay men is limited to the sweet boyfriends who broke up with me for no apparent reason.  That’s why the story is told in first-person from the perspective of the girl who loves him.

So I’m concerned I’ve gotten any number of details wrong.  Details about young gay men, details about the Catholic Church, details about death and dying.  My research included reading And the Band Played On, one reporter’s chronology of the crisis, the memoir Borrowed Time, and endless amounts of Googling.  Obviously, that’s not scholarly research.   I know that many of you will give me feedback about how to fix my errors.

To end this on a positive note, I was astonished and pleased a few weeks ago by a remark our pastor made in church.  In the years since we’ve attended this church, he’s made very few remarks about homosexuality, and the few he made were anti-gay.  But on this night, he said–quite energetically–that we Christians were wrong in the Eighties.  We were wrong for not immediately stepping in to care for AIDS patients.  I think he’s right about that.

You can learn more about the Day of Silence at http://www.dayofsilence.org/

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Because of the shooting July 20 in Colorado and the recent flurry of activity regarding the views of the owner of Chick-fil-a, not to mention the survivor’s benefits that won’t be paid to the partner of astronaut Sally Ride, I’ve been opening my Facebook news feed each day to a louder than usual cacophony of opinion.

One friend’s recent post has me thinking.  “Let me know,” she wrote, “if you agree with this guy so I can unfriend you.”  This post included a sound bite of an elected official stating an opinion that he probably now wishes he’d kept private.  He essentially blamed the Colorado shooting on a decline of Christianity among Americans and said something about wishing an armed person had been present. (more…)

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I went to summer camp at Lutherhaven in Asheville, N.C.  It was my only summer camp experience, and what I remember best is the beauty of the surroundings.

North Carolina was in the news yesterday for a decision made by its voters to ban homosexual unions.  Obviously, I’d have voted against this, as this guy did.

What do you think about the decision in N.C.?

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Lilacs

This week I noticed a lilac blooming on the grounds of the school where I work.  They bloom here a bit earlier than they do in Spokane, which holds an annual festival in honor of these perfumed beauties.  So prominent are they in the city, that I had to include them in my book, Steadfast.

*********************

Thinking of Trevor’s family caused me endless amounts of pain.  I asked Chris about it as often as I dared and he always insisted it was better they not have any details.  I wanted to respect his judgment, after all, he knew Trevor and I didn’t, but as the weeks went by I became more aware of what it was like to lose a loved one.  I wanted to know what Chris was thinking and feeling every moment of the day.  I wanted to watch the lawns green up through his memories of springtimes past.  Did he notice it?  Did it make him dread having to mow the lawn?  Did it bring back the sounds and smells of baseball practice?  I wanted to see the first sprigs of forsythia bloom, notice the tulips show up in the grocery store, smell the lilacs bloom through his senses.  The Monahans had a huge lilac hedge in the back yard.  What memories came to life when he smelled that hedge blooming?  I wanted him to tell me how his body responded to the warmer temperatures of summer, the trip we took to the lake, the walk along the river.  I couldn’t get enough.  And Trevor’s family got nothing.

The lilacs finally did it.  The common lilac, syringa vulgaris, proliferates in the sun and soil of Spokane.  For about two weeks each May–usually a good week after the festival held in their honor–the smell of lilacs permeates the city and the county.  Every activity becomes more regal, more gracious when accompanied by the fragrance of the lilac.  Eating leftovers outside on the picnic table becomes dining al fresco when the lilacs bloom.  Children walking to school feel smarter, students in college find their classmates more attractive, and married couples conceive more babies ushered by the aroma of the incomparable lilacs.

I had brought in a bouquet of branches snipped from Omi’s yard.  She lent me a vase, and the three branches it held filled the tiny apartment with a fragrance so strong I had to put them in the hallway at night.  Chris began telling stories without any prompting from me.  He spoke of Mother’s Day barbecues held in the shade of that lilac hedge, where Barb received macaroni necklaces and handmade cards.  One year Michael’s card said, “I love you better than pancakes.”  They had given their mother herbs for her garden, plants for the kitchen, box after box of thick, creamy stationery, and hundreds of pounds of See’s Chocolates.  She received each gift with the same delight, hugged each child with the same affection, and even though Chris fell asleep breathing in the flavor of the lilacs believing he was her favorite, he also knew that she loved all the others just as much.

“Don’t you see?” I told him, “Can’t you understand how grateful she’ll be when I tell her this story?  I’ll be able to pull this out when she’s feeling low and give her a bright, happy memory of her loving son.”

“Well, sure,” he said, not seeing where I was headed.

“Don’t you want to give this to Trevor’s family?  Don’t you have something to share with them that can ease their suffering?”

“Heather, you don’t understand.”

“If they didn’t know he was gay, you can tell them you were his friend.  You make a wonderful friend.”

“He never talked to them.”

“Chris, if he was wonderful enough for you to love, then they loved him, too.  What about his brothers and sisters?  What about his friends?  What if you had died down there alone?  Wouldn’t you want Trevor to talk to Reagan, or Frankie, or Michael?”  I closed my eyes to hide my fear.  “Wouldn’t you have wanted him to talk to me?”

“I would have never kept you in the dark.”

“But think about your family.  Once they had the time they needed, they stepped up.  It took them a while, but now we can’t get rid of them.  The place is crawling with them.  They love you.”

“He did talk about his sister.”

“Maybe we could try to find her.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“I’ll remind you.”

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Slate has an article about Jesus and homosexuality this week.

Though the article doesn’t reach much of a conclusion, it does allude to my own belief that Jesus believed in tending his flock.  He believed in reaching out to the poor, the sick, and the forgotten.

I guess what I really believe is that Jesus loved us, and wanted everyone to experience the love of his Father in Heaven.  Whenever I hear anyone using the Bible to decide that something is “wrong,” or that certain people can’t be loved by Jesus, I’m automatically suspicious.

We ascend to Heaven based on our relationship with Jesus.  Yes, we can live happier and more meaningful lives if we follow the Ten Commandments and do the things Jesus asked of us.  Yes, we try to glorify God each day through our behavior.  But Jesus isn’t about rejecting folks for the time they coveted the neighbor’s wife or new Lexus.  He’s about loving folks so that they can become more like Him.

Imagine the line of souls waiting to enter heaven.  No one will be asked, “Who received your love?”  But everyone will be asked, “Do you love me?”  And those who answer yes will pass through the pearly gates.

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What made me write?

I earned a degree in writing in 1982, and in the intervening years could never think of anything to write.  I was a stay-at-home mom for thirteen of those years, and knew it was the perfect time to write.  But I had nothing to say.

That all changed when I read an article about the current situation regarding AIDS in America.  One fact jumped out at me:  the people coming down with AIDS today are young gay men.  They’ve entirely missed the AIDS awareness campaigns, and as far as they know, AIDS isn’t a killer.  The drugs available today allow people with AIDS to live.

Something our family discusses often is how Jesus might have felt about homosexuality.  Yes, I’ve read all the verses that some say ‘prove’ that Christians should oppose homosexuality.  But these verses are outnumbered by the verses that tell me to love my neighbor.

Slowly, an idea for a book came to me.

And once I started writing, I couldn’t stop.

I wrote a book about a young man who dies of AIDS in the late eighties.  Then I wrote a book about some older characters in the story.  And then I wrote one more, about the younger characters in the story.  Most of the characters are Christian, so the issues in each book can be examined through a Christian lens.  But when I say issues, I mean issues.

I’ve got the first two-thirds of the first book, Forgiveness Fits, up on Authonomy.  You can read it without creating an account.  But if you create an account, you can support my book.

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