It was a Sunday morning in the Castro in San Francisco. We were having brunch at the Bagdad Cafe. As we waited in line, we noticed a couple who obviously didn’t belong. They stood out even if they had been tourist. My husband and I immediately wondered about their story.
When we were seated, we were serindipidously seated next to this couple. When my food came, the woman asked what I had ordered which led to some small talk and finally on to real conversation. They were in town visiting their son who was dying of AIDS. I ask if he was from San Francisco, and he was. I responded how lucky he was to have his friends around. Thelma, his mother responded that he had been in the hospital over three months and his friends had dried up. Thelma and Ray, his father, had a large family but the family had tired of making the 5 hour drive to visit San Francisco. Thelma and Ray were left alone to tend to their dying son. Abandoned by friends and family. My husband and I thought it was nonsense for this little trio to be left alone. My husband and I could offer something of great value with little effort to us. So, we began visiting a couple of times a week which grew to daily visits. We would offer them breaks to go out to dinner or just a nap back at their hotel. One weekend the parents had an emergency at home. They were torn about leaving their son. My husband and I jumped in…go, we said. We will check on him. We will call you several times a day to talk with your son. The relief was papable in the air. The days turned to weeks and finally months. My husband and I spent many hours talking with this family. They were an Evangelical family and strict in their faith and in their greatest time of need, two gay men ironically came to the rescue. They never treated us with any disdain and we never saw hatred or judgement with this family. We were all a devastated microcosm of a real family. We were all there for their son in his time of need. Our beliefs didn’t matter. Just Raymond. Raymond finally passed. Thelma and Ray asked me to deliver the Eulogy. My husband and I proudly and openly attended the service and many people expressed how well I seemed to know Raymond in my Eulogy. But, it wasn’t just about Raymond. It was about his mother and father. We might have been “enemies” in another situation who called a truce to, as Christ’s example, minister to the sick and ailing. We held on to each other to comfort their son and ourselves. We believed only in unconditional love during that time.
That fall, the family invited us to Thanksgiving dinner. We drove down and brought a bouquet of white roses with a single cardinal red rose, Raymond’s favorite. In Raymond’s death, he brought some unlikely people together. Raymond ministered to us as well and always referred to my husband and I as his mother’s “gay friends”. Love was all that mattered to us during this time.