Arthur was my friend. My husband is my partner, lover and best friend. Arthur quickly became that person outside of the marriage who I would vent to, gossip with and talk about those things that your husband just seems to not be interested in. The neat thing was that I became that person for Arthur as well. We could laugh at one another, cry with one another and simply share the world via e-mail and telephone conversations.
Arthur's past was troubled. His mom was bitter, his Dad was an unknown entity to him, his lifestyle controversial. All these things led him to be a person like me who kept things close to the heart in a protective dome. My reasons were more selfish, I simply don't share a lot. Arthur's reasons were the result of public judgment, extreme bitterness towards his Mother for rejecting who he was and fear of betrayal were his friends and co-workers given an opportunity to judge. Arthur was a gay man. It took him nearly six months to reveal this to me even though I had already figured out he was unique. It took me less than 5 seconds to remind him that he was my friend first. But, it opened up a part of my heart I did not know existed.
Judgement is a harsh word. My Southern Baptist roots taught me that judgement was a requirement in the world. But, my college years and life experiences were beginning to teach me that I am a person judged before I judge anyone else. Arthur taught me that a Christian is a saved person only through the blood of the cross and the final judgement is God's. Arthur taught me Bible stories, about foreign missions and the truth about unconditional love. Everything he ever earned he gave away. Every minute he had to spare he spent in soup kitchens or serving some other social need in his community. Arthur taught me about honesty - the real honesty that means risking rejection in order to insist that people either love you for who you are or do not love you at all. Arthur taught me that living for Christ was the easiest thing in the world to do since Christ died for me. Good deeds just add bonus to the sense of self you feel knowing you are saved through the cross.
Jesus' final commandment, the one He added to the ten was "love each other as I have loved you". Arthur exemplified that commandment like no person I have ever known.
We would joke with one another about our lives and how incredibly different they were. I am a content southern girl, a wife, a mother and according to Arthur - the Ellie Mae Clampette of the world! He even sent me a full set of "Beverly Hillbilly" shows.
Arthur was a yankee, all caught up in the fast pace of his lawyer lifestyle, a person who could not survive even one single day on a farm. I sent him a huge box of fresh boiled peanuts and moon pies that he shared with his office staff.
If Arthur ever stepped in cow poop, he would have fainted. I had always hoped to be the one to give him that little nudge as we were walking through the field and still giggle thinking how he would react were I able to nudge him just at the right moment - centering those squeeky clean, shiny shoes right in the middle of a good fresh one!
Four years ago, I got a phone call that forever haunts me. Arthur had been found in his driveway. He had gone into diabetic shock and was unable to get help. He had fallen in a spot that was not visible. His co-workers found him after knowing that his being late was not normal for him. I am not the only person who loved Arthur or experienced the severe grief after his loss. I do believe, however, I am one person forever changed, strengthened and humbled by my relationship with this man.
I miss my friend. I miss our daily e-mail conversations. I miss how he could always answer me with just the right words when I thought my life was just going to be over if things didn't change. I miss how he loved me and how he always insisted that truth and honesty were foremost in the character of any individual. I miss how he could direct me to scripture and inspiration when I thought the world hated me. I miss how he always made me want to go home and love my husband at the end of the day, telling me continually how he wanted that same romantic love for himself. Most of all I miss how my relationship with Arthur reminded me daily that there are things in this world that I may not understand but the people in this world loved me despite my inability to understand them.
Father's Day is Sunday. I always think of Arthur because he never knew his father. I will tell you one thing...I am most certainly glad that I go to know Arthur and can't wait to see him on the other side!
Arthur left so much for me not to miss. He left me stronger in my faith than I ever thought I could be. He left me wiser. He left me certain that when I get to the gates, I will be able to embrace him and thank him for welcoming me in. Most of all Arthur left me with the knowledge that people all fall short of the glory of God - each one of us -especially me. As I would hear and read Arthur's dreams and disappointments, I knew that he somehow managed to endure a lifetime of judgment at the lifestyle he lived. It had cost him his relationship with his Mother, not because of him but because she could not see within herself- her own failures and sinful nature and acknowledge that he was a much more pure person than she could ever dream to be.