Monday, March 23, 2015

Watching You Disappear, Slowly

I did a lot of thinking and reflecting this past weekend which - among other things - has prompted me to post part of an email that my younger sister, Martha (pictured above), sent to me shortly after I came out in the fall of 2010. She was my staunchest supporter during that difficult period, and she helped me to gain perspective on who I was and who I am.

I had written to Martha to ask her to tell me what she remembered of me before I converted to Mormonism. Her response was, well, stunning to me, and I have re-read these words a number of times since then, most recently this past weekend. Thank you, Martha ... again.

I feel as if I am rediscovering you, yet at the same time as if I am getting reacquainted with a brother I had lost touch with years ago. You know, this person is the one I've always held in my heart: you whom you are revealing is not anyone new to me.

I've always known who you are: your delicate and refined elegance and passion, your profound intelligence and wisdom, your deep admiration and appreciation of beauty. 

This is the brother I have always loved. It is the one I feared losing all those years ago when you wrote me a letter, telling me you had joined the LDS Church. I felt that I was going to lose you, but I never felt that I lost knowing who you truly were. You may have never known that deep sense of loss that I felt. I hope that this doesn't surprise or shock you.

After you joined the church, I felt as if I was watching you disappear, slowly ... with fragments of you disintegrating beyond my reach. You know the sensation of what you see in movies: when someone is falling and someone is reaching their hands to catch that person ... like off of a cliff and then the hands join, but the clutch weakens .... and the person above the great "vide" disappears. 

This is how I felt when I received your letter at school all those years ago.   I stood there shaking as I read your letter with tears running down my face ... it was if you had announced to me that you had died. I felt that I had lost you forever.  The letter was so serious and severe. You had gone from being so happy, smiling, understanding and LOVING to someone so cold, intolerant and always frowning ... At least that was what I perceived.

The memories I have of you from my childhood and youth are loving and fun ones:  walking with you in the snow with my hands in the muffler that you had bought for me. Looking up at you smiling and talking with me about I don't know what... but loving to be with you. I remember laughing, remember you smiling.

I remember riding in your chic car and singing, eating, talking and laughing.  Watching you laugh when I’d tell a joke.  Hanging out at your place when home from school, listening to music and dancing and you singing, or watching you read and just hanging out admiring your intelligence and zen-ness ... all so loving and peaceful

When I visited you in later years [i.e., after marriage and the arrival of children], I felt as if your life had been sucked out of you. You always looked unhappy. I remember saying something about this to my husband the last time we were there, which has now been some time.  

I felt that for someone supposedly so happy with church and family, you seemed so miserable.

In what had once been a joyous face full of laughter, I now saw Mom’s pout. Instead of the brother with whom I always was openly affectionate and loving, I now saw someone who couldn't sign letters or tell me that he loved me ... would simply give me a cold pat hug ... I was devastated. I hope you don't mind the sincerity in my words.

This is also healing for me because I honestly felt that you had died all those years ago when you joined the Church.

So, this brother I am reconnecting with today, who loves his body and is accepting of affection, who doubts and questions, who expresses his love and feelings, who expresses his creativity with pictures and words ... who weaves in humor and jokes .... this is my brother I saw disappearing … The one I’ve always held in my heart.

Photo: Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, summer 1977: Ruth (my step-mother), Me and Martha


  1. This letter, and your willingness to share it, are a true testament to the kind of person you are. Mazel tov on being the kind of big brother I always wanted.