Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. We Catholics go to church and have our foreheads marked with holy soot to remind us that "dust we are and dust we shall be." It kicks off our season of Lent, the official countdown to Easter Sunday. We leave our foreheads like that for hours too. We don't clean the ashes off right away. After you've left church, you can spot other members of the Catholic club just by looking at the forehead.
Had he been a conservative heterosexual painter, it could look like this.
My late partner, Richard, was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS just four months after our first date. My church didn't offer much, if any, solace. It didn't approve of our relationship. That hurt. But I committed to Richard. To the best of my ability, I wanted to keep him from being scared and alone. I vowed to myself to stay by him and help him. I gave him the care I would've wanted had I been in his situation. And he appreciated it. He was one of the kindest people I've ever known. He changed my life in our 18 months together. Richard died in June 1994. Spiritually, our relationship brought me closer to God, to the essential spirit I believe Heaven to be, than any sacrament I've received as a Catholic. It wasn't an easy relationship, mostly because of his illness. It had its horrors. But my spirit felt so alive with him. I wanted to be of service. I felt like the line Jack Nicholson's character says in As Good As It Gets: "You make me want to be a better man." It insults me when people think a same-sex relationship exists solely below the belt. Even though he was terminally ill, when he had the energy for it, Richard would go out and do things for others in need, for those who couldn't get out of bed. What could be more Christian than that? Had he lived, he'd be a great husband.