Prelude to the letter…what generated it:
Our relationship over the years following the initial meeting was strained at best. We had never developed a mother/son relationship. Of course, I had not expected that, since at 36 I did not need a mother to raise me.
The relationship we had developed would be destroyed Christmas night 1998.
I had spent Christmas Eve with friends in Fargo, ND and got up very early the next morning for a 13 hour drive to Chicago, IL. My half-sister Claudia lives there with her family and my mother was visiting for the holidays. My sister thought it would be nice for us to spend one holiday together. I arrived in the evening weary and tired from the drive. They had waited Christmas dinner for my arrival.
Claudia, for some weird reason, has a television in her dining room and leaves it on during meals…even Christmas. During the meal a news story came on about GAYS/AIDS. I had never told my mother I was gay, as we did not have the close relationship I felt was needed to share that information. Claudia did know.
As the news story ended, my mother blurted out; “IF I HAD A SON THAT WAS GAY I WOULD WISH HE WOULD GET AIDS AND DIE. I COULD NOT BEAR HAVING A GAY SON!”
Claudia gasped and hollered “MOM!”
My heart felt as though it had been broken and stomped upon a thousand times. I got up from the dinner table and quietly but clearly said; YOU DON’T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT A GAY SON, YOU JUST KILLED HIM.” I walked out from my sister’s home never to see my mother again.
When I left, I checked into a hotel; a 48 year old man spent Christmas night crying himself to sleep. This is how my mother found out her first son is gay. My mother had “given me up” for a second time in my life. This time it was not due to her strict father, nor her inability to care for a child…now it was simply because her son was gay. She not only gave me up…she wished I were dead!
This letter was written to her three days later. It was sent back to me marked “return to sender.”
December 28, 1998
This is a very difficult letter for me to write as tears are still in my eyes for my heart is broken.
I never thought I would hear with my own ears the words you expressed on Christmas Day.
I know our relationship in the twelve years since we reunited has not always been a good one. In honesty, I know at times it has been quite strained.
Despite this strain I believe we both have some very cherished memories as well.
I thought, this being our very first Christmas together, would provide yet another of those cherished memories…instead my heart was broken.
I have known pain in my life, but I don’t think I have ever felt the pain I now feel. There I was on Christmas night, in a hotel room alone, crying myself to sleep. The pain has not lessened in the few days that have followed.
Sixteen years ago I began a search for you. It was a long, trying and at times painful search…but it ended in success.
I had another long, trying, painful search in my life. The search for and acceptance of myself.
I began questioning my sexuality at a young age. However, I knew what was going through my head went contrary to everything I had ever been taught. I did not want to be what I thought I was. I fought it every way I possibly could. I went with girls thinking that it would cure me of my thoughts…it did not. I went to counseling in hopes it could steer me straight…it did not. I even went to a priest friend for help…all he did was condemn me to hell.
The thought that I could be gay tormented me throughout my high school years into college. I tried to find solace in a bottle. This only temporally released me of the pain.
The anguish became so torturously painful for me that I thought there was only one way for me to end it…that was to end my own life.
I tried and failed. Failing however gave me the opportunity to meet a wonderful counselor. She made me realize that through all these years of pain and torment I was only denying who I was. I was not choosing to be gay…I was born gay. I should accept and be proud of the person I was. She said many other things in the times we shared together but this was the beginning of the healing I had so long searched.
Yes, Mother, I am gay. No, I did not choose to be gay. Who in their right mind would make such a choice? A choice that could cause a life of possible verbal or physical assault, loss of friends or even loss of family.
I have already suffered three of the four, now I face the possibility of the fourth.
I am who I am Mother. I cannot be anything but who I am.
However, I am still the same person I was just moments before you uttered your hateful words. I am still the son you gave birth to…only now you are aware of one more part of my being.
Being gay, does not make me any less loving son than I have been. It doesn’t make me any less the person you were once proud of.
I know this has come as a shock to you. I don’t expect you to understand it nor even condone it. I only hope that you can accept it and accept me, not as your gay son but as your son that happens to be gay.
I have accepted you, your good points as well as those I do not agree with…I only ask the same in return.
Many years ago you were faced with a decision. I know how painful that decision was for you. The decision you made was due to the circumstances you found yourself in of which you were not in control. You made the decision to give me away for adoption. It was a decision which you thought was best for me. You would not know what that decision caused me in the years that would follow. However, I have never held that decision against you.
You now face that decision once again. This time you are in total control of the decision you make.
Are you going to give me up as your son a second time?
This is your decision and yours alone. This time you need to do the searching. You need to search within yourself and decide can you or can you cannot accept and live with the fact that your first born son is gay.
I know what you said on Christmas Day. I can only hope and pray that it was not what you truly meant. Do you really wish I would get AIDS and die? Would you really be happier to have a dead son rather than a son that is gay?
We have overcome many obstacles during the past twelve years. It had not been an easy road for either of us at times. We are both stubborn and hard headed at times…but hey, those are traits I inherited from you. This obstacle too can be overcome…but it is your decision!
I can forgive if you can accept. I don’t believe that is asking too much from either of us.
We missed so much in the years we were apart. No matter how hard we try we cannot make up for those years. We were, however, given a second chance. A chance to experience things I thought would never be possible. I don’t know how many years we may have to continue our second chance…are you willing to throw whatever those years are away?
We have missed so much together already, I would hate for us to miss so much more.
I cannot force you to decide anything. It is your decision to make. Again, I can only hope and pray it will be a decision that will allow us to spend more time together.
I don’t know, as I write this, if you will in fact read it to its conclusion. I don’t know if you do in fact read it, you will end up crumbling it up and discarding it without giving me a reply.
Whether you reply or not, whether you in fact already consider me dead…I want you to know the following:
I remain glad I took the time and effort to find you. I am glad we were able to be reunited. I am glad we had an opportunity to have some cherished memories. I am glad I have been able to call myself your son.
No matter your decision, I will always be your son. Your decision will only determine if in your heart and mind if I am a son alive or am I dead.
I await your decision.
Your Son you may choose to give up a second time,
What followed after this letter:
Despite my mother’s words, I hoped and prayed and attempted over the next almost three years, that some degree of reconciliation between us would occur.
She suffered a stroke in 1999. Reconciliation did not happen between us and death took her October 23, 2001. My mother died a very bitter and lonely woman.
However, with her death I knew there was still some unfinished business that one day would have to be faced.
Over a year passed since my Birth Mother’s death when I came to the full realization that her death left a gaping, bloody, festering, open wound deep within me.
Her death had denied us the opportunity of reconciliation, though there had been no evidence in the previous three years that this might happen.
Her death had denied me a final opportunity even to speak my mind to her as to how her words during our final meeting had been like a dagger to the heart.
I cannot say I wanted an opportunity to forgive. I felt then that my Birth Mother had committed the unforgivable. There was no reason for needing to forgive her for giving me up for adoption for that had been a very wise and loving decision. However, how can one forgive another who after twelve years of a relationship wishes you dead only because you are gay?
I, however, knew I needed to do something to allow this open wound to close and begin to heal. It will never completely heal but a scar can at least allow one to move on.
In an effort to reach out to my Birth Mother shortly after that devastating Christmas of 1998 I sent her the letter above. It contained exactly how I felt from that experience. It contained the story of the struggle I had gone through, including attempted suicide, to accept myself for who I was. It contained my hope of a reconciliation between us. It did not ask that she approve of my being gay rather just that she accept me as she had that day back in 1986…as her son, whether I was gay or not. That letter came back to me marked, “return to sender.” I kept that letter through the final years of her life and in the time that had passed since her death.
This was only one of several attempts to reach out to my Mother for a possible reconciliation. There were attempted phone calls…she only had to hear my voice and she would hang up.
Birthday and Christmas cards were sent by me those last three years only to have them also “returned to sender.”
The most painful, brutal reality for me to deal with were the attempts by my half-sister to reach out to my Mother on my behalf were also rejected. About a month before my Mother’s sudden passing Claudia shared with me that she had again attempted to get my Mother to either accept a call from me or make the call to me herself. My Mother’s words; “He’s dead leave it be!”
It appears though I was not physically dead that in my Mother’s eyes and heart I was in fact dead and would no longer be a part of her life.
A month later she herself was dead.
So the question after her death became; How can I move on without forgiving?
It took over a year of deeply emotional times contemplating this question. The answer would not come easy. It was an answer however that I knew I had to find for my own emotional well being and for healing to begin.
Suddenly the answer came clear out of the blue…you need to let it go! I knew right away how I hoped to accomplish this.
I very much enjoy biking. I have in my hometown discovered a place I enjoy going to…Eagle Point Park.
One early Saturday morning in June, 2003 I set out for that place on my bike. I had with me the letter I had sent my Birth Mother four and a half years earlier.
Throughout the park are hideaways where one can light campfires. After biking awhile I found one spot that was hidden away more than others where I might have a needed time for privacy.
I built a small campfire. I took the letter and held it for a few minutes, then opened it. I slowly unfolded the pages as the emotions welled up inside me. I started to read the letter aloud…Dear Mother!
As I read each line , paragraph or page the tears streamed more readily down my face, the voice cracked more often and the body trembled almost beyond control. I was determined to finish the letter for I had to have my say. I continued on until the closing salutation…the Son you may choose to give up a second time, Larry!
When I had finished reading it I placed each page, one by one, upon the campfire and watched as the flames began to devour them.
As the smoke ascended to the heavens I verbalized the words, “I am now letting go.”
I had read the words I had written my Birth Mother to her and was now sending them up to her to do as she wished. I had finally been able to say all that had been stored within my heart to her. I would no longer allow myself to be burdened with the baggage she had placed on me. I WAS FREE!
YES, in that moment I actually did forgive my Birth Mother. I will never forget those wounds she had inflicted upon me. I, however, would no longer hold onto them. I gave her words as well as mine back to her. I had finally let go! I could move on! Everything was now in her court where it belonged.
I had a few months earlier written to my half sister that had given up the relationship we had prior to our Birth Mother’s death. It had been a last attempt to reach out to her just as I had done our Mother. The letter did not come back but neither had she responded.
When I felt comfortable with everything involving my Mother I took a blank sheet of paper to symbolize the last letter to my half sister and placed it also on the fire. I was also letting go of her as well.
I continued to watch as each page turned from paper to ash.
When it was obvious that there was no more to burn, I doused the fire with the water bottle I had brought with me. I then gathered up the wet ashes and carried them to a secluded spot amongst the trees. I dug a small hole and placed the ashes with it. I then covered them with the dirt and some brush found nearby.
I had not attended my Mother’s funeral but on this day I had my own private one. I buried not only ashes of my letter but also all the pain and anguish caused by her and in doing so I believe I also buried my Mother.
I slowly walked away from that spot. I could feel the gaping wound was already beginning to get just a bit smaller. The healing has begun.
I did not hate my Birth Mother for what she had done. I in matter of fact remember her in prayer. I pray that in death she has found the peace that she was unable or unwilling to obtain in life. I also still thank her for giving me the opportunity of life.
Rest in Peace Mother…I FORGIVE YOU!