A Wedding and a Divorce – Anniversary

A Wedding and a Divorce

Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran, Sylva, NC

Sounds like some new movie for Hugh Grant to star in, but it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, there were funerals during this time too. Death waits for no one and cares not about our special occasions. My ex and I had planned our wedding shortly after North Carolina announced it was allowing gay marriages in the state. Paula Offutt and I were giving presentations about our new books at City Lights Bookstore. A friend who loved us interrupted the reading to let us know that the ruling had passed. None of us could believe it.

 

Now many are trying to take our newly given rights away again. States are creating bills and hoping to make laws that can discriminate against us. Let me tell you this. Now that many of us have had a taste of freedom, those states are not thinking clearly about making us go back in the closet. We have sacrificed too much to get rights that many take for granted. We cherish those rights and we will fight for them. The LGBTQ people are not afraid of hard work, protest, losing family, or physical harm. None of us want that in our lives, but we want to keep our rights.

 

If I did a timeline summary of all that happened between the time of the book reading, it would look like this:

 

New Book Release/Reading – Marriage Equality in NC – Wedding plans – my dad’s death – Disability Hearing – Wedding.

 

In all of that rejoicing, my dad died. There was no rejoicing then mind you. My family had a hard month with my dad on life support machines and with his being 78, we had to make a tough decision. There was tension in the family over a right to die and the meaning of faith. On the day my dad died, my family decided to leave my partner out of the surviving relative list in the obituary. That hurt. It hurt because I knew they loved her, and she loved them. Then, it caused problems because my partner thought I should raise my voice.

One marriage with many promises.

It wasn’t because I was chicken. I had stood up to my family (and lost) before. My concern was the fact that my mom had just lost her lifelong friend and love. Mom and dad fought all the time. So much so that at times I thought they didn’t like each other. Later in life, I realized that both of them liked to argue to a certain degree and that they had learned to make their peace with each other. In addition to concerns about mom, my sister and I were heartbroken over the loss of our dad. My sister worked alongside of dad, so the loss was deeper for her. In my attempt to minister to my family’s grief, I did not do as my partner asked.

 

Besides, my dad’s death caused a cyclone of feelings inside of me that I was having a hard time understanding. There was grief and loss, but there was also relief. Not only relief about my dad no longer being on life support machines, but I later realized his death meant one less person to condemn me in my family. Though we had made a kind of peace about me being present with my partner, it was an uneasy peace. After his death, he came to me in dreams to tell me how much he loves me. I write in the present tense because he still comes in my dreams to bring love to mind. Somehow after his death, I knew he could accept me in a way he couldn’t in his life. He was the only one of my family that later felt present at my wedding.

 

After the funeral, my partner suggested that we postpone our wedding. That really hurt. It hurt because it was the only way I got through the ordeal with the month’s waiting in the hospital. It hurt because I was afraid that my choice to not start a fight in the midst of family grief caused my then-future-wife to have second thoughts about marriage. I believe I even asked her that.

It was true what she said that I was grieving. I couldn’t see how postponing our wedding would make a difference. Though I’ve learned healthy ways to grieve, I am slow at it. Because of my tendency to ponder and analyze my every thought and feeling over events, doing the same with grief makes it seem exponentially longer. At this writing, it’s four years after my dad’s death and I still grieve at odd times. Still miss him when I see his harmonica or run across his guitar slide and the memories of him teaching me guitar make me wish to hear him. Even in 2015, I know that postponing the marriage would have only delayed my grief over the loss of my dad. To postpone would have caused me to stop grieving and wonder what was wrong with my relationship.

Choose to remember love.

Looking back now, perhaps that’s what I should have done anyway. The married and happily ever after was too enticing. Though I knew that life is always full of ups and downs, I was confident in the us that we were and that we had been. At that time, we had been together for nine years and had already gone through a lot. Hell, I thought the fact that two women went through menopause together was enough to cement our marriage. That wasn’t a fun time I tell you, but we made it and we still loved one another.

 

There also was the issue of my declining health. Even before dad’s illness, we had been working to get disability in place for me because of how it was impacting my life and ability to work. Though my partner talked about the stress of it, she promised she still loved me for who I was. The thought of being classified as “disabled” was horrible to me and caused a great identity crisis because I like to work. I didn’t know who I would be if I couldn’t work. I didn’t know where I would fit in the world, in my church, in my family if I didn’t work. This was going on before dad died; even when we planned to wed and, in the weeks, before the wedding. It made it even more difficult that the hearing before the disability judge came up to be scheduled on the day of our wedding rehearsal day. We asked the attorney about postponing it. She informed us that the judge could delay it another two years and we both knew I needed more medical help because I had no insurance.

 

We went to the hearing and the judge made an offer to grant the disability for the future, but it wouldn’t cover all of the bills that had piled up to the date of the final hearing. I can’t remember why the attorney suggested postponing our wedding at a discussion after the judge’s offer. My partner righteously and angrily explained to the attorney that we had waited all our lives for the right to marry. In truth, I think my partner surprised herself at how angry she was that the attorney suggested that. My partner’s standing up and claiming our wedding in such a manner made me even more confident in our wedding. The day before the wedding I was declared by the state as “disabled”.

 

That label did not affect me though because, at the time, I rejoiced in the fact that I was beloved. I felt loved by my partner, community, church, and even my family at the time. Though they did not know about the wedding. Dad died before we could even tell them about it. I knew they wouldn’t come anyway and did not want messages about my salvation mixed in with the grief, the stress of the disability hearing, and the stress (yet joy) of getting married.

Our wedding was simple. We dressed in our best pantsuits. We encouraged everyone to come as they were; casual and fun. The wedding was full of messages of love. From ancient Hebrew scripture to the reading of a Shakespeare ode, love was in the air. Friends played music. All of my partner’s family who lived in town participated. Friends helped. We walked down the aisle to “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” (my favorite Bach piece) and walked out to “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” (a favorite of us both). Our reception was provided by the locale business lesbian. Our photographs by the local and out partner of the business lesbian. We had Christians, atheists, agnostics, and Buddhists at our wedding. The church string band played Celtic music. We danced, ate cupcakes, and rejoiced in the love of family and friendship.

 

Everyone told us then and later that it was the best wedding they had ever attended. They talked of how much fun it was and that they were free to wear whatever they wanted. Everyone talked about how much love there was in the ceremony and the reception. It’s true too. Though I won’t post a photo of my ex here, you can look at her face and see love. Love for me, for her family, church, and for our friends. We both talked about how blessed we were.

 

Fresh flowers at The Balsam Inn, NC.

Our honeymoon wasn’t far away but a few towns over. Just enough to be out of our neighborhood for a mini-break, but also close enough so that if my 96-year-old mother-in-law needed us, we could get there in time. I was proud and honored to be a part of her family. In fact, they were a lot like my family except from Chicago. Okay, so that’s a lot difference. But the love of music and God tied us together.

 

Today, March 28, 2019, would have been our fourth wedding anniversary. Today is the one-year anniversary of our divorce. Yet, what I tell you now is that I’m going to celebrate the love and not the pain. I am sad that my marriage didn’t make it. That much is true. Yet, it is also true that in those years we had together I had more love than some people have in a lifetime.

My friends remain. I have made new friends in my new community who have brought healing and hope for life again at this age. For now, I’m unwilling to talk about romantic love, for I thought my wife was my “one”…she was the only person I was willing to marry. It doesn’t mean that the loss of her means there’s no such thing as romantic love, but that I still have much to learn about love. I still have the love in my heart after all the hurt. After all the loss, the love I have in my heart and life is greater than what I have lost. That is what I will celebrate today. I pray that you know you are loved too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grief and Lent

Grief has a long shelf life, doesn’t it? At least that’s how it seems when you’re wanting the sadness to end. A friend sent me an email about giving up Lent for Lent. Damn wouldn’t I like to be able to give up being sad for lent? Looks like in addition to my goal of giving up plastics (even more than before), I get to give up more hope. Not sure why I kept holding on to the hope that things would work out with my ex. Now, this Mandolin Orange song really expresses it all for me. “There was a time when I called you mine….”*

 

Sleet and snow fall like a blowing curtain as I listen to sad songs. Seems fitting for Lent too doesn’t it? A dreary season during a dreary time of year. Lent seems like it would be easier in the summer. Winter is dark and we all need more sunshine. Everybody seems to be dying. The world is at odds with everything. It also wasn’t a good time for me to read Steven King’s book, The Stand. Talk about a depressing book.

Believe it or not, in spite of what I write up above, I know I will be okay. I am a strong person and am blessed to be loved by family and friends. We all have hard times. Life is challenging for each of us. I’m just at the angry and hurt place in my cycle of grief. Also at the place of letting go.

 

“If I showed up to your wedding
wearing black and blue and red
wouldn’t it seem fitting
cause I’m as bruised and angry as I’ve ever been.”

 

Letting go is its own challenge. We hold on to experiences, people, things we love because love is precious and often fleeting. The one thing that is beautiful in the book, The Stand, is how after everyone has died people realize how much life was taken for granted. The book also points out how guilty each of us are at taking our loved ones for granted in some way or another. I wish it weren’t true, but I know I’ve done it too.

Maybe the beauty of Lent is that it reminds us of the beauty in our lives. No matter when we would celebrate the season, sad things would still happen, people would still die around us. We live in an imperfect world. Each one of us does the best we can, one moment at a time. Maybe that’s all we can hope for in this finite world.

 

One marriage with many promises.

 

 

“Precious metal and precious memories
slip away, slip away from your finger and your mind.
There was a time when I called you,
There was a time when I called you mine.”

 

Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan –

Crossing Muddy Waters

 

_______________________

* Full Lyrics

There Was a Time
If I showed up to your wedding
wearing black and blue and red
wouldn’t it seem fitting
cause I’m as bruised and angry as I’ve ever been.
There was a time when I called you,
There was a time when I called you mine.
This old house is cold and empty
even these old walls have been.
I laid down.
You’re not with me.
Waking up just seems a sin.
There was a time when I called you,
There was a time when I called you mine.
There’s no gold on either side of the Mississippi,
No silver left in this world to find.
Precious metal and precious memories
slip away, slip away from your finger and your mind.
There was a time when I called you,
There was a time when I called you mine.
Songwriters: MARLIN ANDREW H
There Was a Time lyrics © Seed Soup Songs
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Community of the Beloved

Food for the Soul at Pfeiffer University

Last week, I was invited to speak to students at Pfeiffer University about faith and sexuality on Tuesday evening. Then, on Wednesday morning, we talked about living the life of the beloved. The Francis Center for Student Leadership  co-sponsored my talk with the Pfeiffer Chapel.

©2018 Casey Habich, Pfeiffer University. Used with permission.

The events planned for that week were ones to address diversity. Yet, they were also about the meaning of being a beloved community. In talking with The Rev. Maegan Habich (HA-bick), we decided to focus on the text from 1 John 4:7-8

“Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God and the one that loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love, knows not God for God is love. Beloved, let us love one another.”

1 John 4:7-8 (paraphrase is mine)

 

I was pleased to discover that the Imam Atif from Charlotte was going to speak to the students about Islam. His talk was informative and one that helped all who were there to get a realistic view of what it means to be Muslim. If you would like to hear his talk on Islam, please visit the page on Robin’s Radio: Imam Atif and Food for the Soul

©2018 Photography by Casey Habich, Pfeiffer University. Used with permission.

It was exciting to have the opportunity to hear an Imam talk. My friend, Cary and I joined the talk.  Since my talk is readily available for everyone, I recorded the Imam’s talk on Tuesday instead of mine.

Pfeiffer’s campus in Misenheimer is set in a rural community and was the main campus when I was in college in the 80s. Now, the Charlotte Campus has grown exponentially and Pfeiffer is preparing to expand more into the local communities. As the university grows, the school continues to reach out to the surrounding community with the students. The new programs through The Francis Center are teaching the students the value and importance of knowing the diversity surrounding us and that they have something to offer the community.

My talk to the students on Tuesday evening dealt with the challenges of being a lesbian and a Christian. They had thoughtful and serious questions and comments. The next morning brought back copious memories of life at Pfeiffer. The college was a beloved community when I went there in the 80s. It is more beloved to me to know that they are reaching out to the community to embrace diversity. The video below is my talk.

 

 

 

 

See our upcoming local events

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My Own Kind of Pride Celebration – Juneteenth 2018

Though this year has been challenging in many ways, it has also been good. I’m having my own kind of pride celebration now. I’ve been blessed to have accomplished a lot of my life goals. After finishing my third book, I have been thinking about the next creative project. Do I start on book two of the series? Do I do the audiobooks I wanted to do? Or music? Music keeps playing into my heart and mind, perhaps it’s time for music to be created. But what about painting? Am I giving up on painting?

Bread & Wine – Watercolor

The truth I realized is that I paint when I am happy and content. Maybe that’s why people liked my paintings, they came from feeling loved and happy. It’s not that I am unhappy here on Beech Mountain, but I am still unsettled. Having lived here for almost a year, it is beginning to feel like home. I can’t say I am content, though I love the solitude.

One of the challenges I face as my art grows is how to balance the sacred and what some would call the profane of my life. I am a lesbian who is also Christian. For me, the lesbian part is as sacred as the church connected part. I have always been a religious person and I knew at an early age I was different. I didn’t know the word “lesbian” until I was older.

Once I learned the word, I can’t say I was proud of being one. Every time it was spoken during that time, it was in a condemning way or a way that sounded dirty. I wasn’t dirty or mean, just afraid. It’s only after decades of practicing saying that, “I am a lesbian” that I can say it without feeling my heart in my throat.

 

In today’s climate of hatred, I am cautious again. After being in a town where I was free to be who I am, I’ve felt I had to be more careful here. I didn’t know anyone on the mountain and for the longest time thought I had to be the only lesbian on the mountain. I’ve learned that I’m not, but like me, those who live here tend to keep to themselves. I’m okay with that. There is still comfort in knowing that there is someone who gets me on the mountain even if we aren’t close.

Passion Flower – Watercolor

Today I decided that I wanted to write about being proud of being a lesbian. It’s taken years of prayer and good counseling to get to the place where I can be proud of who I am instead of afraid of who I am. My goal in life has always been to serve G_d and one day to find the right person for me. After my recent divorce, I may have to accept that there is not a person for me. I am okay with that for the most part. We all have our moments. But back to my topic of being proud.

Growing up, we were discouraged from being proud in a braggart way. I’m glad of that. There was, however, a pride that was a family way of being. We were hard workers. We were smart and quick learners. None of us were (or are) perfect, but all of us are good, decent people. Just because I am a lesbian doesn’t make me any less of a good, decent, person.

 

People have accused me of things I’ve never even thought about doing. I will state again that I am of a religious mindset. Most of my thoughts are theological or musical when I’m not worried about hurting someone’s feelings. As I age, and my activities are limited due to health challenges, my thoughts turn to quality. I want to be better at writing, playing music, drawing or painting, living. I want to be good at living. This is something I can be proud of and exclaim to the world.



I am celebrating Pride Month in my own quiet way. I can’t get to the parades. My heart and mind are focused on what is happening in our political landscape for the immigrants right now. I want to find ways that I can encourage those who are still able to physically get involved and encourage the rest of us to keep heart.

 

A little bit of light will go a long way. Be proud of your light whoever you are, whatever color your light casts. You matter. I matter too. The more we embrace the goodness of each being, the better our world becomes. I hope you take time to listen to the Victor Wooten song below. His song is full of the good news of life and I believe it speaks my truth. I see God in you. I see God in me.

 

 

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Not Dead Yet – The Disabled Hiker

 

Start of the trail to Crab Orchard Falls.

I wave at the girl coming down the path to assure that she saw my dog, Birdie. While Birdie won’t pull me down, the large dog with her could easily pull her off the path and down the steep hill. She nods an acknowledgement. I ask her if the path is the one to the water falls. She ignores me. I see she has ear buds in so it could be she didn’t hear me. It saddens me that she missed out on the beautiful sounds of nature while she hikes.

I decide that me and Birdie will follow that path anyway. It is the likely correct path to the Crab Orchard Falls. There are signs but they are pointed in strange directions. Perhaps some prank by a youth walking by, perhaps some animal brushed against it for a scratch. There are bears and deer in the area. A sign would make a good scratcher

Birdie is being a pill today and pulling harder than ever. She woke up on the bossy side of the bed. At first I hooked her to my bag so she would have a longer leash. We didn’t walk far before it was clear that she would need to be tied around my hips so she would know who was really in charge. Also, maybe she would help me walk farther. I used an old ski pole to stay balanced. Once everything is hooked safely, we start up the hill.

Immediately I had to turn to take a photo of the fields below us. The snow had kept the skies so gray. Then the rain kept it grayer still and the fog thicker than pea soup. It was nice to have a clear day. Streisand was right, that on a clear day you can see forever. At least, the beauty of this day reaches beyond the ordinary.

Below me is the Valle Crucis Conference Center

 

When I first began having problems with balance and pain management, I was discouraged that I would have to give up hiking. I love to hike and always have. I learned how to hike with asthma and did fine for years. When my marriage broke up because of my disability I argued that “I am not dead yet!” Now that I’ve had to move and the air is cooler, that turns into a motto of sorts. Whenever I get down, I remind myself that I am not dead yet and change my attitude.

Discovering that there are tons of trails on Beech Mountain and also near my church, I’ve made up my mind that I will find a way to hike. At least if I die on a trail, I will die happy!

That being said, my goal is always to stay well. I’m learning these helpful things.

  1. It’s okay to go slow no matter what the dog says (or the humans who might hike with you). When I walk too fast my arthritis complains more. It can also trigger asthma.
  2. Stop and rest along the way. Each time I stop, I also look back the way I came to ask if I think I could make it back. When I first tried to hike with my current disabilities, I always forgot the hike back. There were times I was in so much pain or my asthma was scary because I forgot this vital piece of information – do a health check to make sure you can go back the way you came. If you are unsure, it is better to turn back and go home. The trail will be there for another day. At least you showed up! That is the first step to getting back on the trail.
  3. Be okay with people passing you. Yes, it is awkward at times. When I first hiked Waterrock Knob in Waynesville, I had to sit down on the rocks and sometime the very path where I had to walk. This meant for people in a hurry to go up or down the path, they had to watch me struggle to get up and out of the way. Yes, it was awkward for us both, but that day I knew I had to make the hike. It was the first time I tried to hike and the first Father’s Day without my dad. There were some sixth graders who passed me and were rather rude. They were sixth graders. Who cares if they laugh or make eyes? They are the sixth graders, and not us. It’s okay to let people pass you or see you sitting.
  4. This actually should be #1 on this list. I leave it in this section because it goes with today’s hike. Don’t forget your water! My meds make my mouth dry. No, I don’t want to have to take a leak while on the trail, but you don’t want to be parched either. Besides, your dog might also need a sip. Today Birdie and I were both too thirsty to keep hiking.
  5. Enjoy the close up, detailed view. We don’t know how much we miss by simply hiking up to a view and then back down to our busy lives. By stopping and sitting, catching my breath, doing a health check up, I have been amazed at the beauty that the fast hikers are missing. Slowing down and having to stop every so often has not lessened the pleasure of hiking, but heightened and deepened the joy. Don’t miss the beauty at hand.
  6. It’s okay if you don’t reach the destination. Yes, it may be disappointing, but the goal is to remain active and still get to hike. Today I was bummed that I couldn’t make it to the waterfall. Although the path evened out for a time, it turned rocky and started uphill again. I stopped, looked behind me and asked if I could easily make it down. Then I looked up the hill and knew I couldn’t go on. Also, by stopping, I could feel the pain in my feet throbbing. By pausing, I could feel how labored my breathing was and realized it was too hot for me to go further without having an asthma attack. So I turned and started back down.
  7. Focus on what you DID do rather than what you couldn’t do.
  8. Remember that life is about being on a journey and that at the top is just another view. There is a view before your eyes that you can appreciate. Lichen, rocks, trees, all have interesting colors and patterns. Have you ever really looked at that beauty before? Have you ever seen so many shades of green or brown?
  9. When you get back to the start of the trail, DO congratulate yourself because the hike was hard if you had to turn back. You got the full effect for your health. AND now you know what you need to do in order to prepare to hike further the next time.
Even the start of the trail has a beautiful view.

I asked a new friend to hike some this summer on some of the trails here on Beech Mountain. I would love to hike Linville and Grandfather Mountain and I know I could not hike safely alone in those places. I make sure to tell people that I hike slowly and often have to stop. That way they are free to say no while we are not on the trail.

Hiking is about being out in nature for me more than it is about finding a view. I love views of course, but more than anything I love the sound of water flowing, birds singing, the rustle of leaves in the wind. Nature is good for the soul. Get out and hike, the distance doesn’t matter! Be good to your soul and get out!

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”  ~ John Muir, Our National Parks

 

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A friend of mine who also battles arthritis and fibromyalgia reminded me of her cool walker that helps her still be able to hike. Check out the Trionic Walkers on FB if you need more than a cane.

 

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