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LIFE, UNWOUND: PRIDE IN AN UNLIKELY CENTENARIAN

As I drive, I listen to a playlist made for Pride Month. The songs don’t directly tackle harassment, job insecurity, bullying, or equal rights, but the lyrics ring true today, now. I sing along.

Judy Garland’s, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

Cyndi Lauper’s, “True Colors:” 

“And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show”

The Beatle’s, “Come Together Right Now:” 

“One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
Come together right now …”

Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive:”
“I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
I’ve got all my love to give…”

Lady Gaga’s, “I was Born This Way:”

Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself, and you’re set”

I hear “I Was Born this Way,” and remember my mother’s mother, Memere Albert, youngest of eleven children born in 1902 in St Malo, Quebec. She attended school with “the nuns” and later sent her own children to parochial boarding schools. I never knew a Roman Catholic more devout.

I hear “I Was Born this Way,” and remember a conversation with her, during Pride month, near what I sensed as the end of her life (at 101). For weeks, I had visited her in the nursing home each day at 8:00 a.m. to help her lift the fork with scrambled eggs to her mouth, to feed her breakfast. We’d talk. She’d say, “God is good and watches out for me.” And, “Jesus is a good guy to pray to.”

At her request, I’d read Catholic Digest aloud, since she could no longer see well. “When I wake up, I pray first thing to Mary,” she’d say, “I say my Rosary all day long. I love my beads. I used to go to Mass every morning.” 

I told her I had studied yoga. She’d judge, “You hassle your whole self with such foolishness. You crowd your mind. You stay too busy.”

Yet she didn’t judge this as she continued, “I wished you’d married a Catholic but I could see you were happy. Years ago, I wouldn’t have been allowed to go to your Jewish wedding. But it’s no one’s concern who you marry. It’s none of my business. I don’t bother myself with stuff like that.” 

With such intimacy, I sensed the moment was right to tell her my son, one of her twenty-one grandchildren, was gay, happy and healthy.

She didn’t judge that either, “I knew that anyway. If he came to tell me, I’d tell him I’m proud of him, that I love him. I know other people who are that way too. They never dated girls or married. As long as they are happy and have a good life, they will be as well off in heaven as me. That’s the way I feel. I used to think the Pope was always correct, that he knew exactly what was right and what was wrong, about what’s sin and what isn’t. I don’t think that anymore. Gay people can’t help it. They are born that way. If I can change my mind, after how I was raised, anyone can.”

She died in the middle of Pride Month, June 18, 2003, not knowing about gay rights or gay marriage but with a voice of clarity for our crowded, bothered minds. 

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