I attended another memorial service today. Thankfully, this was not family. I got to know Doris through the Dedicated Reconciling United Methodists group holding services once a month specifically inclusive to LGBTQ people. Her daughter Karen was a regular and part of the leadership. Doris came too. Her son Jeff is gay and mother and sister wanted a church where he would be comfortable.
My first glimpse into Doris’s character came with a story she told at (or perhaps after) one of these services. Many years ago Jeff was a part of a gay chorus. Doris attended a concert and afterward told her son how much she enjoyed it. Other men in the chorus crowded around. A parent had come to the concert! And liked it! So many other parents had rejected their gay sons. That thought broke Doris’s heart.
During the service Jeff told part of his story. As was true for many gay men born before 1970 (and, alas, still sometimes true today) Jeff married a woman. The part he shared today was telling his mother he is gay. She began to cry. Jeff said the tears were because she recognized the pain he had been going through and the pain he was about to undergo. Jeff divorced Nancy, his wife. A few years later Jeff met the man who would become his husband. Doris warmly welcomed him to the family.
Nancy also told her story. After the divorce Doris continued to treat her as part of the family. When Nancy fell in love with another man Doris and her family attended the wedding and gave their blessings. When Nancy had children Doris treated them as her own grandchildren, even though there was no biological link. Karen said that Nancy has been a sister.
Through the service Doris was described as loving, elegant, quick to see the essence of a situation and of a person’s need, ready to welcome everyone, and would not put up with nonsense that some people didn’t belong.