Whenever the anniversary of 9/11 comes around, I am reminded of a small drama that was taking place in my life on the sidelines at that time. My friend Buddy (about whom I wrote an article on my site, as some of you may already know) was less than two weeks from his death and I didn’t know it. After the terrorist attacks, the days that followed were for me an emotional haze. Then Buddy sent me an email on September 19 reporting that he had been waking up at nights with chest pains and pains shooting up his arms, yet he was dismissing these symptoms as part of his history of gastrointestinal problems. Thinking he was just stressed out like me about 9/11, I wrote back and said, “Sure, keep taking that Mylanta” and then shortly after that he was dead of a heart attack. You’d think that since my dad is a physician I would’ve recognized the clear heart attack warning signs and ordered him to get his rear end into a hospital now. But on September 19 my head wasn’t completely in the game.
What was so amazing about Buddy was the firm grasp he had on his self-worth, which was rooted in his firm conviction that God truly loved him in Christ. This in spite of being gay, growing up in a church so conservative they thought Jerry Falwell was a liberal, being told all homosexuals were going to hell, getting kicked out of his family, trying to do the ex-gay thing and leaving that scene, and being estranged from the rest of the gay community because he still believed his homosexuality was sinful. Whatever the extent of his personal failure, whatever the severity of rejection he suffered from the people around him, he always kept his eyes fixed firmly on the cross of Christ, and that was all the hope and comfort he ever needed to keep his head screwed on straight and his feet firmly planted on the ground. He moved out of state, telling his parents that when they were ready to talk to him in a civilized fashion, they could get in touch with him through a friend’s email address. Although his parents and brother wrote him off as a hell-bound pervert, he still attended a conservative church even after his move, refusing to allow their perverse behavior to throw him into a reactionary, self-destructive mode. His father had raised him to believe that getting a college education was “for liberals” and a waste of time, yet at the late age of 37 he enrolled in college to get his Associates degrees, figuring it was better late than never.
One time I confided in him doubts about my website, lamenting that I was “just a housewife” so what difference could someone like me make? Buddy wrote back and said something like, “Oh sure, maybe you’re just a housewife. Or just a rocket scientist, or just a pharmacist, or just a graphic designer, or just a garbage man. Look at President Bush, he’s ‘just the president.’ Either way you’re only one person trying to make a change for something you feel is important, so what does it matter whether you’re ‘just a housewife’ or ‘just the president’ except that you’re at peace with what God has laid on your heart?” I tell you, that guy was the coolest.
Whenever I read through his old emails like I did this morning and see how he signed off with, “Saved by grace, Buddy,” I regret that he is gone, but I also know he’s in a far better place. As a gay man he believed in the grace of God against all the odds, and he made it safely home.
If you're interested in reading more about Buddy, you can check out “My Friend Buddy and the Conservative Church” on my website.