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Sharing in Faith: Revelation in a hospital waiting room

Elaine Saunders. Photo courtesy of Elaine Saunders

Elaine Saunders 
Photo courtesy of Elaine Saunders.

My family was the typical middle-class family: My dad was a professor at Texas A&M University, my mom was a stay-at-home mom, and there were four of us kids, three girls and a boy. I grew up in a loving, conservative, traditional environment and was raised in the Presbyterian Church.

So it was a shock to all of us when my brother Keith, at the age of 35, told us he was gay. I knew that this was incredibly difficult for him and that he wasn’t at all sure of our response. However, I couldn’t help but think, “How could he do this to our family?” Our response was that while we continued to love him, we didn’t talk about it and we pretty much pretended that it wasn’t true.

Two years later, I received a phone call from my mother. Keith’s partner, Jack, had called to tell her that Keith was in the hospital with complications from the flu. When we got to the hospital, Keith was in intensive care and was obviously very, very ill.

Jack took us aside and told us that the reason Keith was so sick from the flu was because he was HIV-positive and had been for eight years. He had developed a secondary infection that was overwhelming his body. I felt as if I had taken a physical blow. For eight years, Keith had lived with what was then considered a death sentence, and he hadn’t been able to share that with his own family.

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God’s children

My family and I stayed at the hospital for three days. On the third day, Keith died.

We sat huddled together in the waiting room, crying and comforting each other. And as I looked around that room I had what can only be called a revelation. All around me were my brother’s gay and lesbian friends — people we had met only three days earlier. And yet here they were, caring for us.

And then Matthew 25:35 came to me: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in.” That is what my brother’s friends had done for us. We were the least of these, and they reached out to us just as Jesus taught us to do.

I knew then that these were God’s children just as surely as I was and that they truly understood what it meant to live in the Kingdom of God.

Reaching out

As I healed from Keith’s death, I prayed that God would give me an opportunity to reach out to other families like ours, families that felt there was no one they could talk to. Eight years later, God answered my prayer. The associate pastor at the United Methodist church we attended asked me to help start a support group for families with gay or lesbian children.

The first night we met, we weren’t sure anyone would show up. However, 21 people walked through the door that night — most of them people I had known for years. And yet I had no idea they had gay children.

I have been a part of this support group for 10 years, and I have seen the Holy Spirit at work in amazing ways in the lives of members of our church and our community. Through the healing and the love that I’ve witnessed in this group, I have grown tremendously in my faith and my belief that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are truly God’s children, loved and accepted by him exactly as he made them.  

I tell my story in memory of Keith and because I truly believe this is what God has called me to do.

Elaine Saunders
Katy, Texas


Posted September 18, 2014.