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Sunday, September 26, 2010

No down low writing

With the Eddie Long story consuming my thoughts today, I thought I'd share an excerpt of a story from my book Black-Eyed Peas for the Soul. This story was contributed by my mother's pastor, Dr. Jo Ann Long of New Covenant Life Church in Chicago.

Pastor Long openly shares the sad tale of her husband – a minister – who contracted and died from AIDS. He was leading a down low lifestyle, but it's such an amazing story of love, forgiveness, and believe it or not, happy endings, that I just had to include it Black-Eyed Peas. It's one of the most popular stories in the book.


 A Miracle of Love
n Long

It was the 1980s and the AIDS virus discovery and exposure were yet new in our community and I was walking through my valley of the shadow of death and fearing the evil. Truthfully speaking, I felt more like I was crawling through it. Nevertheless, I was moving, determined to get through.

My husband, Tracy, was in the hospital fighting for his life and the doctor's report of his condition was resounding over and over again in my mind. It was not good: HIV positive and its possible/likely fatal outcome -- the statistics! The specialists in his field could not offer us any hope and expressed grave concern for me.

Hurting and angry, I questioned how I could be confronted with such a monumental situation which was bigger than life, an intrusion, an invasion of my private world, my home, marriage, and family. I thought, surely not my husband -- not me! Why me?

I was filled with shock and grief. I waited for something more to be said -- some explanation, perhaps. Something! It did not come. I was not really prepared for this, I thought. Then, as if someone had pushed a video replay button, I began to hear words of advice that had been spoken to my parents approximately 20 years ago as I was coming of age. It was a different time, a different setting, but those words began to replay in my mind even louder than the hopelessness of the doctor's words and the fear of the situation -- what I was feeling.

This is the wise counsel of that individual. She said that as my parents let go, I would develop and mature as a beautiful woman. She perceived that even as a child, I flourished under pressure best when I was not petted, pampered, or smothered with needless pity or sympathy. Through difficulties, I would draw from my own resources and make it.

As I remembered these words, I not only drew strength from within, but I discovered I had the courage to embrace my destiny. What I encountered, experienced, and lived through leaves me awestruck even to this day.

November 1986, Tracy LaMar Allen died. After his death, I experienced loneliness such as one could never even imagine. Our courtship and marriage was a sum total of twenty-five years filled with joys and trials; struggles and successes, good days and bad (so many of the bad days toward the end). He had chosen to live part of his life anonymously as a bisexual (functioning as both and with both: male and female). The confirmed news of this, as well as the consequences thereof was devastating to him, our families, and me.

My husband was a minister -- double jeopardy! After discovering the truth, learning of his life of anonymity during his illness, I acquiesced to his request not to share what was happening with family and others for the sake of the children and the church, and to avoid further embarrassment and ridicule. I loved him. I respected his individuality and privacy. He made a futile attempt to protect me and our children by choosing to die incognito, but the news got out and I was accused of not turning state's evidence and supporting him in a lifestyle that constituted double standards. I lost much physically, socially, materially. And, oh, the pain!

During that time of aloneness and loneliness, once again the video replay button was pushed and I remembered during meditation that prior to all of this happening, I had been given the assurances of marriage -- a good marriage. A whole marriage was part of my great destiny.

I was back and I was ready to make a comeback. The only way I knew to make a comeback was to go on. Slowly but surely, I began to accept speaking engagements, seminars, workshops, etc.

Then it happened! One Saturday afternoon in 1989 while speaking to the Midwest Clergy Association, I met the man I was to marry -- my future husband, though I did not know it at the time. He had observed and admired me, asking for an introduction. From our first meeting, which was so coincidental to me, and during the occasional times of our being together, I found myself filled with a whole succession of emotions -- amazement (more at myself than him), excitement, fear, joy, love.

We were married June 1990, and one of the most endearing gifts that John gave to me at our wedding ceremony was tears. His impassioned, genuine tears flowed unabashedly from his eyes and down his face as I walked down the aisle and into his arms at the altar as his bride. Later, in our honeymoon suite, he told me that his heart was overwhelmed with love and joy to find such a virtuous woman, that I was so beautiful as his bride, and how much he loved me.

Often I hear, "How did you meet him?" "You are married to such a good man." "Where did he come from?"

In the Gospel according to St. John, chapter one, verse six, you will read these words: "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John."

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