Do You See Beyond Your Own Life?

I met my friend Michael 20 years ago when we worked at the same company.  I was immediately drawn to him and his kindness.  He is one of those people who exude warmth.  We worked together for about four years, and eventually over time lost touch with each other. 

We recently reconnected through the power of Facebook, which has been wonderful.  Michael is a talented and lovely man, and he has a wonderful partner, Andre, who brings him such joy that I often get a cavity simply reading about their love for each other.  They are perfect.

Michael writes about things he is grateful for and posts them on Facebook.  Sometimes I laugh, others bring a tear, and all leave me in awe of a man that I knew for a short time, a long time ago, and am happy to have found again.  Michael’s latest post needs to be shared.

I come across fascinating people quite often.  I write about my adventures through other people's lives, and get a lot of emails from people asking me how it is I always find myself in the middle of such interesting stories.  It's quite simple really, and everyone can do it.

We must be aware that lives other than our own are being led, and if we stop focusing on ourselves, we are able to see theirs.  I feel closest to God when I am able to see other's stories, and Michael is blessed to have the gift of seeing the lives around him.

If I can let go of my own view, to see what others see, I am able to witness lives that are beautiful.  They  may not be like mine, and I often dont understand, but I always come away having learned something.  Michael’s story today is a blessing amd I am happy to share it.

Days of Gratitude – November 4, 2012

The last time I was in Washington DC I met a guy on the subway. The year was 2000. His name was Jackson Leinowens. I was checking out his friend Bob…. Jackson was checking me out. We all laughed when our eyes met. I was on my way to see the Korean War Memorial at night, we briefly chatted and they told me how to get there. As I exited the train, Jackson handed me his number. That was the only time I saw him in person, but for the next two years we wrote and called each other quite often.

What I learned was that he lived in Washington DC and taught at a private school. He was a big romantic, had an incredible wit, loved that he was a 'hero' to his 20 kids and loved the look on their faces when they 'got it', drank Cape Cods and Rose Kennedys, ordered Carpaccio whenever it was on the menu, loved the History channel, worshiped Wonder Woman & Linda Carter, ate Butter Pecan ice cream right from the container, loved show tunes, “Yentl”, sign language and beauty pageants.

I also learned his twin brother had died of leukemia when they were 16, he himself had battled leukemia for ten years. And I learned he hadn't spoken to his parents (both officers in the USMC) for six years, because they disowned him, because he was gay.

On April 29, 2002, I received a phone call from a friend of his. “Hi, my name is Eric and I needed to call and let you know that Jackson lost his battle with Leukemia and died.” The week prior, Jackson had given his friend a list of things to do, and on the list was to call “Michael from the subway.” Jackson was surrounded by a few close friends when he passed. I asked about his parents. His parents had refused to come to his deathbed, as far as they were concerned, he was already dead to them.

This man, whom I only met for ten minutes on a train, but knew better than some of my own friends, had died without a family, his biological family. What he did have was the family that he made for himself. A family of friends. So often gay men and women must create new families for themselves to replace the ones who have left. I am so moved and saddened by this fact. It saddens me to know that there are parents out there that would disown their own children because their child was gay. I am extremely grateful that that is not the case in my life.

This evening, I met the rest of André's family and was greeted with warmth as if I had known them for years.  Mom, two siblings, a sister-in-law, and nine nieces and nephews. We had a wonderful evening.

I have been so blessed in my own life to have a beautiful family that love and support me for who I am. My loving parents, my siblings: Midge, Sue, Eric, Jody, and their spouses: Scott, Tony, Lisa, and Casey. Also my amazing nieces and nephews…all twelve (soon to be thirteen) of them. I never take this blessing for granted.

Today, I am grateful for family and all their kinds, shapes and sizes. I am thankful for my own family and the love, care, faith, support and acceptance they show me. I am grateful for my parents, siblings, in-laws and every single one of their kids who have brightened my life and warmed my heart with pure love.

I am grateful for André's family and the warmth they showed to us tonight.

And I am grateful that I met a guy named Jackson Leinowens on a subway some twelve years ago, and that he touched my heart, and my life. He is remembered.

I am keeping Jackson and the family he built in my prayers.  Life is precious and if we are able to look beyond the one we are living, we are truly blessed.  Be kind to a stranger because one day you might be their family.  I love you Michael.  Your vision inspires me to keep the faith.