Category Archives: family


Every Death Is Different

My parents died 32 years apart, and I’m finding it interesting how different their deaths are. Or, to be accurate, how different my reactions are.

Because they’re truly different. I’m sure most of the differences lie in the fact that I’m not the person I was three decades ago. Then, I was much you get and had little first-hand experience with death. Know I’m older, and have lost more friends and relatives than I can easily count. So I guess the biggest change is that death is no longer the shock it used to be.

Another difference is that I had time to prepare myself for my mother’s death. She had fought cancer for so long that when she died, it wasn’t unexpected. Painful, yes. Devastatingly so. But I had had so long to prepare myself that it wasn’t a shock. And in a way, since she had been in such pain for so long, it was a relief.

It was different with my father. We had been estranged for years, only reconciling the week before his death. I knew that he had had a stroke, but I hadn’t been aware of how much his health continued to deteriorate in the following year. And unlike with my mother, I hadn’t had the opportunity to tell him all the things I wanted to say. I never got the chance to tell him how much he meant to me, and what an honor it had been to be his daughter.

And Every Death Is The Same

Sadness. Anger. Disbelief. Numbness. I felt all of these following my parents’ deaths. What I feel now, as I am writing, is a dull ache for my mother, but a sharp, stabbing pain for my father. I know that over time this pain will become the same dull ache that I feel for my mother. And I also know that it will never go away. But that’s okay; I don’t want it to go away. I want it to remind me of the two people who loved me more than anyone ever did.

Because if there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is this: no matter who else they meet in their lives, no one will ever love your children as much as you, their parent, does.

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Maryland, My Maryland

Last night Stacey and I got home from our trip to Maryland to bury my father. Except we didn’t bury him. Joyce, my stepmom, will do that in the spring. She’ll take his cremains to Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, and inter them in the same plot that holds my mother and my first stepmother, Carol.

My father and I had been estranged for several years, beginning when I was outed to him as transgender. But I was able to speak with him last week on the phone, and we reconciled. We told each other we loved each other, and I began making plans to drive down to visit him.

Alas, that was not to be. On Tuesday, February 9, as Stacey and I were about two hours out of Rochester, my father died.

When my mother died, I knew it immediately. And later, talking with my brothers, it turned out that they did, too, as did several other close family friends.

But with my father, nothing. I wonder if it had anything to do with the way each of them went: Mom’s passing was peaceful, in her sleep, while Dad had a hard time of it, struggling for each breath.


My daughters were there as well. Both the one I’ve been in constant contact with and the one who, like my father, had stopped speaking with me—and for the same reason. But when we saw each other, and hugged each other, that separation, too, disappeared, and all is well with us again.

Then there was my cousin—daughter of my father’s brother. I was worried how she would react to my changes, as I had not really been in contact with her for a long time. But I needn’t have worried: she said when her son came out as gay, they had no problem accepting him for who he was, and the same applied to me—no matter who I am, she loves me still.

About Maryland

It’s a strange state, this Maryland. It is considered the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States. Facts about the state are far too numerous to mention here, so I suggest you do what I did when I started my research, and check out its Wikipedia page. Ironically, despite the fact that Maryland remained on the Union side during the Civil War, it was a slave state, and as such, was not affected by the provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation, as that decree only applied to those states in the Confederacy…a fact that wasn’t taught when I was in school.

Driving around the state—especially on the back roads Stacey and I frequented—you’ll see numerous old barn-like buildings in various states of disrepair. They’re not barns but in fact old tobacco-curing sheds. Maryland had a large tobacco industry at one time, but a state buyout greatly reduced its presence. It’s curious to note that although the sheds are no longer needed nor in use, it’s illegal to destroy them. And so they stand, mute witnesses to a past era.

Controversy Over the State Song

Periodically, efforts are made to change the state song to something less martial. As Wikipedia says,

Due to its origin in support of the Confederacy, it includes lyrics that refer to President Abraham Lincoln as a “tyrant”, “despot”, and “Vandal”, and to the Union as “Northern scum”, as well as referring to the phrase “sic semper”, which was the slogan later shouted by Marylander John Wilkes Booth while assassinating Lincoln. For these reasons occasional attempts have been made to replace it as Maryland’s state song, but to date all such attempts have met with failure.

Summing Up

For these two Northerners, Maryland’s road system was a nightmare…and we weren’t the only ones to think that. Navigating via GPS didn’t help: it was always a case of “Turn left in 200 yards…Duh! You missed it! Make a U-turn at the next intersection.” There were many cases where it told us to make a turn onto a given street even though we knew from past trips that we still had 1/4 mile to go before we would even reach that street.

It just validated my own strongly-held belief that GPS will never entirely replace a decent map.

Thanks for reading,

Robyn Jane

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Christmas for Queers (like me)

A Letter To My Boyfriend’s Homophobic Parents On Christmas

By Caleb Woods on December 22, 2014
(Reposted from

Categories: Family, LGBT Pulse, Religion

Congratulations. You’ve won. You’ve earned your ticket into Heaven by showing your son God’s love.

You’ve shown your son God’s love by not allowing him to bring me to your home for Christmas. You’ve done exactly what Jesus would do – shun others. After all, Jesus didn’t let JUST ANYONE at his table. It’s sad that on a day you celebrate the birth of Christ, you’ll be acting in the complete opposite way that Jesus acted. Alas, you must show your son God’s love and not condone “our behavior.”

It worked last Christmas. You manipulated him into coming home and he was treated as if he were a leper. He was called names, harassed, and told he was going to Hell because I was dragging him there myself. He was in mental anguish over your treatment of him. You tore him apart with your words. You degraded your only son.

But this Christmas….. He’s over it. He’s over the threats, the lies, and the bullying. Since you don’t recognize him and I as a couple and since you’ve said you won’t treat us like part of the family, he’s decided to choose love over hate this Christmas. He’s choosing to NOT go back to what he once called home. His home is with me and it has been for three years. He’s become an integral part of my family. While you were shunning your son away, he found a family of his own. He found people who love him without conditions. He found a table he was welcome at.

During your Christmas celebration when you try to justify your actions, please remember that you gave your son an ultimatum – for him to get rid of the love of his life or to leave your family. I know you blame me for taking your son away, but whether I’m in the picture or not, your son is still gay and you must face this realization.

You’ve made it abundantly clear that you think I’m demon-possessed, a bad influence, and a sinner. Your judgment of me has no effect, but your treatment of your son causes my heart to bleed. I’ve had to sit by and watch you throw stones at the person I love most. I’ve watched as you and the rest of his family have disowned him. I’ve thought of every scenario to get you to love your son again. I’ve blamed myself because I felt as if I personally caused him to lose his family. I know this isn’t the case and that your son chose me because he recognized true love. I’m writing this to say that I have your son’s love and that’s all that matters. Your son and I love each other and that love is eternal and unconditional.

While you’re feeling comforted knowing that you’ll be rewarded in the next life for “not condoning the gay lifestyle”, I’m consoling your son in THIS LIFE. I’m the shoulder your son cries on today. I’m the person who will hug him tight tomorrow. I’m the one who will apologize on your behalf until the day I die. I’m the one who wants to scream at you and say, “Stop! You’re hurting your son! You’re hurting your only son!” But deep down, I know where your heart lies. Your heart beats to that of a literal interpretation of the Bible. Your heart beats to Fox News. Your heart beats to discrimination and treating other “sinners” the way you think they should be treated – condemned to Hell. Your heart beats with hatred to the things you fear and do not understand.

This Christmas, your son and I are surrounding ourselves with people who love and care about us. We understand what true love is. So this Christmas when you think to yourselves, “He’s abandoned his family for the gay lifestyle,” just know that your son didn’t abandon you. He’s been the same person he’s always been. You are the ones who changed. You’ve deemed certain people unworthy to sit at your table. You’ve put conditions on your love for your son and that is the worst Christmas gift of all.

Caleb Woods is a Communications and English major. He is a reader, a writer, and an activist for LGBT rights, women’s rights, and the rights of the American people. He has lived in Alabama for his entire life and has experienced first-hand discrimination and bigotry. He hopes to change hearts and minds across the world so that people may show more compassion and empathy for their fellow man and woman.

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