He was a singer. From out on Long Island. Out where the suburbs have become an urban stretch along the Long Island Sound shore. Like Public Enemy and Flava Flav land. Sang with the Metropolitan Opera. Now singing at church. He had moved away from the Pentecostal roots of his childhood because of judgmental attitudes and a hypocritical moralistic preacher with a wandering eye. Had tried Unitarian and other liberal churches and found they left a hole in his soul. He’d found a home here. He was ready to make changes in his life. Including being baptized. Those same hypocritical church traditions had prevented it in his childhood. Now he was ready.
She was a retired nurse. From Scotland. Had at a later than usual date married a race car driver. Revealing an unexpected adventurous side. He died too early. She came to our church from one with a Scottish tradition along with her best friend,another Scot. They brought the Caledonians and the kirking of the tartans to West-Park. Including one year that included not only Scots but Galician pipers from Spain honoring the church’s multicultural reality. And outfitted two pastors, one Brazilian, the other with actual Scots’ roots with kilts. Her friend was a champion for lgbtq rights. Activist/evangelist Janie Spahr came for her funeral. Now our retired nurse was alone. There was something about the singer, not only his voice, but his person, that she liked. And respected. They became friends. He asked her to be his godmother at his baptism. And she gladly agreed. Standing by his side while eh was baptized.
He retired from the Met. Went to work for the church, where he was now an ordained elder. And then for a supportive housing agency for persons living with AIDS. An agency with its roots in the church. Because of the church’s historic advocacy for lbtq people, the AIDS epidemic hit the church hard. God’s Love We Deliver, the meals-on-wheels program for PWA began there. The Tiffany Jesus window was restored by a man whose partner always saw himself as the child held by Jesus. Dedicated it to his partner’s memory. The singer had experienced too many losses of loved ones, especially in the early years of the crisis. Had tenderly cared for a family member through to the end. This was a job of the heart.
When she moved to a new apartment downtown, with extra room, she invited him to join her since his building was going market rate. He gladly did. Now, more like family then friends. We have our families of birth and our families of choice. Godmother in the truest sense.
Twelve years have gone by. He called me Tuesday. She had been hospitalized. I made my way downtown bundled against another late winter stormy day. She was alert again. Cheerful and happy to see me. Before I left, we three joined hands and prayed a prayer. Of intercession. But more of thanksgiving.
She’s headed for rehab now. It will take awhile. As these things go, home healthcare uncertain. If necessary, he will retire from the agency. Care for her in every way needed. He’s done it before. And learn what he doesn’t know already. She was there for him when he needed. He will be there for her.
This is a love story. A church story. Like my friend Kristen says, it only takes two….A love story. A church story.