Local view: ‘Yes’ vote on gay marriage is just cruelA year ago, my Uncle Tom died of cancer in the arms of his partner of 33 years.
By: Emily Johnson, for the News Tribune
A year ago, my Uncle Tom died of cancer in the arms of his partner of 33 years.
We knew he would pass quickly after we brought him home from the hospital. But his partner wanted his last hours to be in their home. Not knowing whether he would hang on for days or hours, I offered to stay overnight so Scott could rest. I had the privilege of being there for their last 24 hours together. My self-assigned role was to remain awake so Scott could sleep.
A great love I shared with my uncle was cooking; he was a professionally trained chef. So my antidote for staying awake was to cook. Hospice arranged for a hospital bed in their living room. While family and friends surrounded my uncle to say goodbye, I headed to the nearest grocery store. By 11 p.m., everyone had left. Scott was exhausted. We sipped wine and sat quietly, until he noticed my groceries.
“Emily, you realize we have tons of food, right?” Scott asked.
“This isn’t about needing food,” I replied. “I have to do something, and I want him to smell good things tonight.”
Scott looked at me curiously, and then smiled. “Okay,” he said.
We pulled out “Julia Child’s Master Recipes” and decided on pot roast, which requires four hours of braising — a good fit for keeping me busy all night. With classical music playing, we began cooking with my uncle a few feet away.
The roast was in the oven by 1 a.m., and I began my four-hour braising. Scott slept on the couch near my uncle’s bed, not wanting to be separated from him. Around 3 a.m., my uncle’s eyes opened. I went to his side, laid my hand on his forehead, kissed his cheek and held his hand.
“Hi, Uncle Tom; I’m here.” I was surprised to see such clarity in his eyes. And I saw fear. Realizing he was looking for Scott, I reassured him, “Scott’s right here next to you, on your couch. I’m staying up so he can sleep. Do you want me to wake him up?” Relief flooded his face, and he shook his head no. I talked about a half hour. About what? I can’t remember. He responded with smiles and facial expressions, and then slept again.
Mid-morning, my parents and brother came by again. We knew this was it and prayed together with a hospice priest. A Catholic sister whom my uncle loved visited to pray over him and bless him. My uncle died in Scott’s arms an hour later.
From the beginning of their 33-year commitment until my uncle’s last breath, their love was among the purest I’ve ever witnessed and a blessing to all who knew them. A year later, the hurt continues, especially for my 67-year-old devout Christian parents. Every time Scott has to call my father (my uncle’s legal next of kin) about another property matter, my dad is crushed by the unfairness of Scott having to ask for what he shouldn’t have to. Most recently, Minnesota transferred title for the vehicle they owned into my dad’s name. The indignities continue.
If you vote “no” on Nov. 6 and the marriage amendment fails, nothing will change. You are not voting to legalize same-sex marriage. Gay and lesbian families still will suffer profound injustices, which is why a “yes” vote seems so extraordinarily cruel and un-Christian. All it will accomplish is to make the marginalized of our society feel even more ostracized. Some claim God wants “yes” votes on this measure. Yet no person can truly know the will of the Creator, other than we are called upon to love one another.
If you are struggling with how to vote, please just leave the box blank. Even if you believe God wrote the Bible, you must know God did not write this referendum. The only impact a “yes” vote will have is to make families like mine feel even more injustice, grief and pain.
Emily Johnson lives with her husband and two daughters in Duluth and currently works at the College of St. Scholastica as director of institutional diversity. With a specialization in advocacy, she also has held legislative positions with the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C.; with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; and with two U.S. congressional offices.