Today is All Saints Day in most Western Christian traditions (perhaps Eastern, too, I don’t know and didn’t research it.) Most churches who celebrate it, or something related to it, will use the Sunday after November 1st and remember those people who have died in the past year. I have wanted, then not wanted, then wanted, then not wanted to post about it, so I have managed to wait until 10:45 pm, Denver time to write about the person in my life who died in this past year.
Her name was Doris and she was in her 80’s. She died of lung cancer and from the time she began to struggle with it in earnest till her death, she wouldn’t let me come visit her–in her assisted living apartment or later in the hospice care. I knew she didn’t want me to see her all swollen up from the drug side effects and other bad side effects of treatment, but even knowing why didn’t keep me from feeling terribly hurt. She had been a very dear friend to me for more than five years and rarely did a week pass that I did not see her at least twice for a hug and a kiss, a class or worship, a meeting or just a visit or lunch and a story.
Her stories were the stuff of legends, meaning I’m not sure how much of them were exactly true and how much had grown to legendary proportions through the years. She had been a Deaconess in the Lutheran church, trained and educated in a “Mother house” until she graduated college and was sent west to work in a church with a children’s and youth program. She later was forced to give up her title as a Deaconess and her role because she had fallen in love with a local man and was going to marry. Women in that era couldn’t do both.
In her 80’s, she was still the secretary and treasurer of her Women’s group in her church and often was hostess or gave the program. She was active in Bible Study midweek and the other “progressive” programs of the church. A few years did not and were not going to slow down her mind nor her ability to learn, process and come to new positions on issues and questions. She was like a 4’10” Zena in a powder blue sweatsuit with frequently reapplied bright red lipstick.
Her funeral was on the day of my birthday party, which was postponed and never rescheduled. My heart still aches when I think of her, which is several times a week minimum. Lacking the role in my biological family, she was my matriarch who was progressive in thought and belief and saw my gifts for ministry not Despite my homosexuality, but in Celebration of my Lesbianism. She even welcomed my girlfriend to church and to our women’s circle meetings!
I didn’t attend her funeral. I couldn’t have at that point in time. I’m even a little bit leery about tomorrow’s service and lighting a candle in her honor. But it’s the least I can do in her memory. As a matter of fact, her memory will probably walk with me up to the candle table and steady my hands as I try to bring the big wick into contact with the small one, then laugh in my ear and reapply it’s lipstick. Doris, I miss you. Much Love.