This is one of those times.
Occasionally, someone lives on this planet who is so special, so wonderful, that he or she can make an atheist wish she still believed in Heaven. My precious, departed cousin Ron was one of those people.
Ron passed away years ago of the avian flu. He was a homosexual recovered alcoholic child of an (also recovered) alcoholic.
None of those things are what defined Ron. But he was not afraid to talk about any or all of them to anyone who was interested, or to anyone who he thought he could help by sharing.
This post is a tribute to his memory. I've been thinking about him a lot lately.
What did define Ron was this: he was a kind, loving, thoughtful, funny, honest (sometimes brutally so), and unselfish man. There are two particular memories of him that I think represent all of these qualities, when put together.
The first is a memory of the time that his mother (my aunt), my mother, and I went to visit him in New York City. He was a hairdresser (cliché, I know...), and a damn fine one. He did many models and movie/TV stars' hair regularly. Still, NYC is an expensive place, so he lived in a tiny studio apartment (his partner and he also had a home in the Poconos, but Ron spent the week in NYC). Still, he was happy to have us stay at his place, and made accomodations for us all. I ended up in the floor on an air mattress. On the morning that we were to leave NYC for the cabin in the Poconos, Ron graciously woke me up by pulling the plug on the mattress and watching me crash down on the floor and wake in a dazed stupor wondering "what the hell just happened, and why did the bed turn hard??" He laughed like a little girl. As did my mom and my aunt. Hilarious, y'all.
The next memory happened a few years later. Ron's father (my mother's brother) passed away. Ron and his father had a very volatile relationship. Ron came out as a gay man before my uncle quit drinking, and he suffered severe emotional and physical abuse at the hands of his father because of his homosexuality. After my uncle quit drinking, he was able to come to terms with the truth about his son, and they eventually formed a somewhat healthy relationship. These types of memories about someone that you love cause the grieving process to be much more complicated, and even more painful than average grieving. I knew that Ron was in a lot of pain.
When I arrived at the funeral home, I found Ron and went to give him a big hug. After our hug, he put his hand on my shoulder, and said, "Is this hard for you? Being here?"
He was referring to the fact that I had lost my father at such a young age.
Take a minute to let that sink in. He was going through terrible grieving, and his first thought was to comfort me.
That is who he was. He loved to laugh, he loved to make others laugh, and he cared deeply for the feelings and well-being of others.
It was because of Ron that I was able to finally accept my sexuality. It was from Ron that I learned that it is safe to forgive, even when someone has done terrible wrongs to you, if that person has made a true and sincere effort to make things right. It was Ron who taught me to embrace my curls (although I have been betraying him lately by using a straightening iron...). Ron made me feel beautiful, inside and out, because he was beautiful. Inside and out.
Rest in peace, Ron. If there is a Heaven, and if there is any universal justice, then you are there, having a blast. I love you, cuz.
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