The other day my grandmother told me a story about her life that brought me to powerful tears in the middle of a Chipotle in Mansfield, Texas. At the age of 70, my grandparents are full of stories I’ve never heard before. They constantly surprise me with the things I do not know about them, what they’ve seen or been through. We were sitting in the window talking about the new mentorship I’ve taken on with a young girl who is 10 and living through some gritty conditions.
This led her to telling me about the time in my grandparents life when they used to foster teenagers. They would also foster babies and nurse and care for them before they were ready to turn over to their adoptive families. One of the teenagers they cared for was a seventeen year-old girl named LeNore. The young girl had stolen something, which caused her to be held in court in the presence of her family. She had other siblings, a mother, and a father who were well off and well-to-do. When the family was let out of court, the parents told their young daughter, “Do not speak to us. Do not call. Do not ever come home again. You are not welcome with us”. The girl, from a whole and well off family, was suddenly turned homeless and it was my grandmother who chose to take her in and foster her. She was red headed and would curl it with large curlers, my mother recalls of her living with my family. “She would also paint my nails for me,” my mother said. “She was very sweet”.
One day, the girl came to my grandmother and informed her that she was pregnant and that she wished to have an abortion. She asked for my grandmother’s help in going through with it. In the process, the girl eventually decided to have the baby and to release it for adoption. My grandmother helped her through this time.
Not long after that, a policeman knocked on my families door. “Do you know a woman by the name of LeNore?”, the policemen asked. “Yes, answered my grandparents — we are her guardians”. The police officers delivered to my grandparents the news that the young woman was dead. She was riding on the back of a motorcycle with a young man and in a collision incident with a van, was killed. The policemen informed my grandmother that it was my grandparents contact information they found kept away in her purse.
My grandmother contacted the young woman’s family who had turned their daughter away. The father answered the phone. My grandmother informed him that his daughter was dead - that my family would cover the entire funeral and the arrangements and need not worry about it, but only that she wished for him to know what had happened. A few days later he called her and insisted that he would take care of the funeral himself.
My entire family attended the funeral for LeNore, orchestrated by her own mother and father. During the funeral, her name was not once mentioned. She was not acknowledged. She was shunned. A sermon was given in the Lord’s name and the mother showcased her florist connection but there was no honor of LeNore.
At the end of the ceremony, my grandmother walked up to the father of the deceased girl, enraged and unsettled by what she had seen. She told the girls father “With all due respect, this is no funeral for a girl. This will not do. This is not good enough. So I’m sorry to tell you that we are going to have another funeral for LeNore. My family and I, we will have our own.”
After lunch, when everyone had left LeNore’s grave site, my family returned — my grandmother, my grandfather, my mother who was twelve at the time, my aunt and my uncle. They stood around her grave and held a ceremony of their own. They spoke her name. They honored her name. They blessed her name, in the name of the kind of Lord my family believes in. They spoke of what a blessing it had been that before she passed she was able to deliver a new life into the world. They spoke about how they had loved her. “I remember it just like it was yesterday. I cried and cried and cried,” said my mother when I asked her about the story.
"There was absolutely never a single reason for that child to need to suffer or to know that kind of suffering," my grandmother told me in the window, still upset about it to this day. It triggered so much inside of me. We cried so much that we laughed at how ridiculous we were carrying on crying in that window.
So there I was, you see, breaking down into tears in the middle of this Chipotle because as though the story were not enough to do it, it’s about so much more than that. The story is the church I live. It’s what my family has taught and raised me to do. They love me whole-heartedly as a gay woman, and they will love whole-heartedly which ever woman I bring into this family as their own without question. They will speak her name and honor her name. They will honor our love together whether or not others can. I have been taught, when I see something in my heart that I know is wrong to say “This is not good enough. This will not do. And with all due respect for the sake of my heart and what is true - I must go my own way”.
I tear up even now, recounting the story.
I could not be more grateful.