A Letter To My Parents (Dad, Don’t Worry! This is Entirely Fictional)
I was moved today to write this. In case you missed the title, this letter is NOT written from my personal perspective, but from the point of view of the many young gay men and women who have chosen to end their own lives because they were unable to reconcile who they chose to love with their religion. This, of course, comes just from my assumptions and my imagination. It may read a little bit like a suicide note, but I write it more from the perspective of someone who has already died. This is dedicated to them.
Before I begin, I want to say how grateful I am for my own parents, and for all the love and acceptance I was shown. I feel very lucky for that, and it literally saved my life on more than one occasion.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Don’t worry, I made it safely. The deed is done.
Before I move on, I wanted to let you know how much I love you and maybe explain a little more clearly why I chose to leave you. I really didn’t intend to cause you so much pain, but it was the only way I could alleviate my own pain. It may seem selfish, but I couldn’t stick around anymore knowing I had disappointed you or made you ashamed of me in any way. I really did do my very best to make you proud. I’m sorry I fell short.
When I was a little kid, Dad, I remember walking along the beach in California holding your hand. It was the very first time I had ever seen the ocean. I’ll have this moment burned into my memory forever: you paused and looked out at the horizon for a moment, then looked thoughtfully down into my eyes that were unblinking and wide with awe and said, “Look out there. As deep and wide as that ocean is, God’s love for us is a million times deeper and wider. And I love you even more than that, and nothing you could ever do or say would change that.” You smiled, tousled my hair, and gave me a kiss on my forehead before leading me down closer to the water so we could feel the cool sand beneath our feet and the waves fall against our ankles.
How I wish I could have stayed in that moment eternally. I felt so loved, so safe, so strong. Even as I grew older, each time we visited the ocean it never seemed any smaller. It still stretched vast and wide toward the horizon, and even now all these years later, I can still feel the strength of your hand holding mine and the waves lapping against my feet. You were the closest physical manifestation of God that I could have grasped at that age. There were many times through the years, especially toward the end of it when things were at the very worst, when that memory was all I had to hold onto.
As I grew up, I had all these emotions building in me, and feelings I had always been taught were unclean and perverse. The only way I could make sense of it was to assume that I had done something to make God angry at me; that he was punishing me for skipping church or forgetting to say my evening prayers. Good people don’t have those feelings for no reason.
They say hindsight is twenty twenty. I’m not so sure. Even now, I am still unable to pinpoint when things changed. The older I got, the the more abnormal I felt. In church, we were always taught that God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle. For awhile, I had myself convinced that this was just a “challenge” God was giving me to test me. After a long time, I lost faith in that. I had a really tough time ever really believing that a God who claimed to love me would deliberately hurt me so much. I suppose I even stopped believing that there was a God at all. Obviously, given the outcome of my life, I couldn’t handle whatever “test” this was. Up until the day I took my last breath I was still down on my knees night and day pleading with God anyway even though I knew he had given up on me altogether. Either I wasn’t paying close enough attention or I never actually received an answer to my prayers. I still don’t know.
I would love to be able to tell you that none of this was your fault, and there’s nothing you could have done to prevent it, but I would be lying. Given what I have done, there’s no point in trying to spare your feelings now. It took me such a long time suffering with this by myself. When I first decided to tell you about the feelings I was having, I was prepared for you both to be shocked, disappointed, even disgusted. What I didn’t expect was to be forced into a “therapy” program that involved so much physical, emotional and psychological pain and humiliation, with the threat of my eternal soul. I didn’t think anything could be worse than grappling with these feelings on my own, but the way they tried to “fix” me was the worst hell I never even imagined. I wish I could tell you I have forgiven you for all of it, but I haven’t, and I’m not sure I ever will. I suppose time will tell.
Mom, there were so many times I wished you would just take me in your arms and let me cry and tell me everything was going to work out, like you did so many times when I was little. Sometimes my eyes would meet yours and there was such a look of pain and disgust I began to avoid you because that look stabbed me so deep. I don’t say this to hurt you, Mom, I just wish you could have broken through and just loved me, instead of placing conditions on that love.
Love. Ultimately that was the only thing I truly needed and craved, and the thing that was the most elusive. I never even had the opportunity to try and love myself. I’m convinced both of you did and do love me, but what good is that when it’s not shown or felt? It becomes a bit of a worthless emotion.
Eventually, I couldn’t bear all of these things. All the praying, all the tears, all the physical pain, all the humiliation, all the self-hatred…all because I couldn’t be what you and God wanted me to be.
And so I ended it.
Please understand, I do love both of you more than anything, and I always will. As you told me so many years ago on the beach, Dad, nothing you could do or say would ever make me love you less. I know I have caused you pain with my decision, but it was the only way I could think of to get even a small level of relief from the constant hurt I felt every day.
Before I go, I just want to say thank you for giving me life. Thank you for taking care of me the best way you could. Thank you for the all the good things that happened because of you when I was a child.
I’m going to be all right, and so will you. I know the pain will ease with time, and life will go on for you. I hope now I can move toward something better; to finally be able to be at peace with myself. I hope someday we will see each other again, and all this will make sense.
Until then, please know that I love you. I hope somehow, someway I will be able to love myself as well.