Psalm 31:9 (CEB) Have mercy on me, Lord, because I’m depressed. My vision fails because of my grief, as do my spirit and my body.
On one of my visits with my 75 year old dad, we talked about my brother Richard—who we called “Ricky.” Ricky was gay and schizophrenic. He died of AIDS in 1996 at the age of 34.
During our conversation, Papí revealed his pain and grief over his estranged relationship with his first born child. He kept Ricky’s “issues” a secret. Denied them. “I didn’t want people to know.” “What if they made fun of me?” “Or said mean things about him?”
The tears of regret streamed down his face.
This father struggled: with loving his son fully; not having the resources and community necessary to help him with his mixed and deep feelings of love, shame and fear as a Latino father of a gay and mentally ill son; and, wanting to protect him from the pain an unwelcome world would bring.
I had been angry at my father for hiding the truth about my brother until the day he, Ricky, lay in the hospital bed dying. That afternoon I listened. I saw his pain. I witnessed his love. I felt his regret.
I forgave my father. I believe that Ricky, watching down from heaven forgave him that day, too.
My family’s story is a reminder that silence, secrets, shame and fear around sexuality and mental illness hurt everyone. While there has been much progress made since 1996, it is also a reminder of the resources still needed for the Latinx community to engage in the vital work around LGTBQIA issues within our unique and complex cultural settings.
Grace makes space for difficult work to happen in order for all to be truly welcome.
Prayer: Loving God, Your compassion and mercy fail not. Help us to offer compassion to all seeking to more fully love and live out loud. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Bio: Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks is Pastor of Namasté UCC, a new church start; serves as Transitional Pastor of San Lucas UCC; and, is Executive Director of A Just Harvest in Chicago.