A Day of Sadness

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

— Revelation 21:4

Today marks five years since I lost a very dear friend in an automobile accident. He died the night before my birthday, and I received the news of his death on the night of my birthday. I was utterly devastated, and it took me a long time to recover from that devastation. He such a beautiful young man and had so much to live for after a hard beginning to life. His boyfriend was planning to propose on Christmas morning, and he was about to go back to graduate school. So much hope and promise were lost when he died. So, I tend to always get a little down especially this time of year. Birthdays should be joyous times, but there hasn’t been much joy in them in the last five years. There have been two exceptions to that rule. For my fortieth birthday, one of my coworkers took me for a weekend trip to Montreal, and we had a great time. Last year, I spent Thanksgiving and my birthday with Susan in Manhattan. She took me to see Chicago on Broadway, and we went to see the Stonewall Inn and the Freedom Tower. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal at Il Mulino on 20th Street in Manhattan and ate at the Italian restaurant Coppola’s for my birthday. It was such a wonderful and memorable trip. It had been the first time that I had not been consumed by sadness on my birthday in the years since my friend’s death. Yet, even with those happier times in Montreal and Manhattan, the loss of my friend is still ever-present in my mind, especially this time of year. This year, I am alone and missing him, and his friendship weighs heavily on my mind.

The friendship I speak of was not an ordinary friendship for me. It wasn’t romantic, as he had a very loving boyfriend, but it was a strong bond, a brotherly bond. I could confide in him anything. I don’t think another person on this earth has known me more completely than he did. I have a few wonderful friends that are still around, one in Texas and one in New York, but I guess I hold back on telling them everything for fear of opening my heart that way again to someone I might lose. The only other person I ever loved so deeply and felt so overwhelmed by sadness by losing was my Grandmama. She loved me unconditionally, but I suspect, had she known I was gay, there would have been conditions to her love. There were no such conditions with my friend, and I could be completely open and honest with him. His understanding gave me a self-confidence in myself that I’d never before felt. In 1 Samuel 16:7, God told Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God was referring to David replacing Saul as King of Israel, but in a similar way, my friend saw not what my family and those around me saw, but he saw me differently. He saw me as I was with all my flaws and faults, yet he still loved me. I never had someone who understood me the way he did, especially one who loved me without conditions. Luke 12:2 says, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” That is what our friendship was like. I revealed myself completely to him, and that was the first time I had ever done that so completely. I had come out to people, and I occasionally told people my insecurities, but I had never allowed someone to see the real me because of the fear of rejection.

My friend had suffered a troubled life, especially with his family, who rejected him for being gay. They didn’t even want to claim his body when he died, yet they did so to keep his friends from having any real closure with his death. They were mean-spirited and cruel, and it is that kind of hatred that many of us fear. I fear it from my own family. The difference is that my family did not entirely reject me, and they did not nearly beat me to death as his family had done to him. We both had faced a similar rejection, and we held on to each other for comfort. When that was all taken from me because of an automobile accident on an icy road late one night, I did not know how I could continue to live. I wanted to die with him. I had recently moved to Vermont, where I knew no one. I had very few people I could turn to for comfort; Susan was one of the few, and our friendship has grown tremendously since then. But, I’ll be honest, I did not want to go on living. I fell into the deepest depression of my life, and it took years for me to emerge from that depression. If it had not been for Susan, I’d doubt I’d have made it through that period of depression alive, and I will always be thankful to Susan for being there for me when I needed someone the most. As you might be able to tell from this post, I have not fully emerged from that depression. It still haunts me on days like today. I get stronger every year, but it still hurts. I try to remember the good times that we had in our friendship and not dwell on the loss, but on days like today, that is very hard.

Life brings so much tribulation and trouble, but it also brings many blessings and comfort as well. Pain and sorrow are sadly inevitable in this life, and when they happen, it can be the only thing that dominates our thoughts. However, Christians can look beyond suffering and sorrow to the day we rise into Heaven, when “that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4). As the above verse from Revelation says, tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain will be noticeably absent from Heaven. Pain, sorrow, mourning, the passing of friends and loved ones, and dying are all harsh realities of this life, but they will be over once and for all when we reach Heaven. The song “When We All Get to Heaven” has the following refrain:

When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

Revelation 20 tells us that all wrongs will be made right on the Day of Judgment, all sin will be separated, and suffering of all kinds will be gone. It will be the day when good is victorious over evil. We may not understand why we have to endure some of the things in life that cause such heartache and pain, but let us never forget that the promise of eternal life is greater than our limited view. While I don’t want to die anytime soon, I do look forward to the day when I can again see my loved ones who have passed away. I want to see my friend and my beloved Grandmama. While I may be sad this time of year, I just remember that Jesus is there to help us when we are troubled. Whether it is today or tomorrow, He will wipe away the tears from all of our eyes.

The reunion of loved ones who have passed away always reminds me of the following song and offers comfort: 

In the Morning of Joy
Words: Adalyn Evilsizer (1895)
Music: Anthony J. Showalter

When the trumpet shall sound,
And the dead shall arise,
And the splendors immortal
Shall envelop the skies;
When the Angel of Death
Shall no longer destroy,
And the dead shall awaken
In the morning of joy:

In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy;
In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy.

When the King shall appear
In His beauty on high,
And shall summon His children
To the courts of the sky;
Shall the cause of the Lord
Have been all your employ,
That your soul may be spotless
In the morning of joy?

In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy;
In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy.

O the bliss of that morn,
When our loved ones we meet!
With the songs of the ransomed
We each other shall greet,
Singing praise to the Lamb,
Thro’ eternity’s years,
With the past all forgotten
With its sorrows and tears.

In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy;
In the morning of joy,
In the morning of joy,
We’ll be gathered to glory,
In the morning of joy.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

2 responses to “A Day of Sadness

  • iameverywhere1

    Please accept my condolences. For the future know suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Live for those who need you and who mean so much to you.

  • Beau

    I grieve with you for your loss. Your friend meant so much to you and, from what you have written, he would want you to continue on. May you one day share the love that he showed you. There will be better days ahead. God bless you and keep you.

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