Sunday, February 28, 2016
This weekend, we celebrated the life of our friend Gladys, who passed away last week just two months shy of her 106th birthday. (Yes, that was not a typo. When Gladys was born in 1910, William Howard Taft was President, Edward VII was on the throne, and the fictional events of Downton Abbey's first season wouldn't happen for a couple of years yet.) I first met Gladys when George and I were dating, and he started bringing me to his church in Glendale, where Gladys and her husband Gene were stalwart congregants. Not only did they attend Glendale City Seventh-day Adventist every Saturday, as Gladys had grown up Adventist, but they also attended the Methodist church every Sunday, where Gene, now retired, had been a pastor. George had been going to Glendale City Church because it had quietly established a reputation as a safe and accepting place for gay Adventists, and had a growing gay attendance. There were a few rows in the rear center section that had become the "pink pews". Gladys noticed the growing group of members in those rows, and decided that she and Gene should be welcoming, and that they were going to sit with us. So this octagenarian double-church-going couple made it their mission to sit with "all those nice young men". They had a midwestern friendliness about them, and Gladys became like an adopted grandmother to all of us, greeting everyone with hugs and always checking in on us, and asking after anyone who had missed a week or two. She had a sweet, grandmotherly way of cupping your face in her hand. Then after this had gone on some time, an awkward conversation happened. Gladys said to one of the guys, "you know, some people in this church have been spreading malicious gossip that you boys are all homosexuals, but I told them it's not true, and they shouldn't talk about 'my boys' like that." To which came the reply, "Um, Gladys, actually it is true." This threw her in a quandary. She was torn between what she had been taught about homosexuality and sin, and "her boys" whom she had come to love. She had a long talk with our pastor, telling him "I'd always been taught that it's wrong, but they're wonderful young men and I just can't reject them." She decided that "loving the gays" was her calling, which she undertook with zeal for the rest of her long life. She adopted us and we adopted her, and love made us all family.