This week our guest Writer Peter, shares his very personal experience about the death of his Mother and his coming out.
Today I buried the ashes of my mother.
As my family and I lowered the urn into the ground, all of the memories came flooding back. All of the days and nights in the hospital, all of the times she was sick at home, her last weeks in hospice. But also the good memories, the days of laughter and sunshine, the wonderful times we spent together with the family.
And while today’s events gave a sense of finality, something has been nagging at me. She died without having truly known her son. I never told her I was gay.
While this may seem a typical situation–a 19-year-old not coming out to his family–my situation isn’t typical. Firstly, I live in Sweden, one of the most gay-friendly nations in the world. Secondly, my mother was very pro-gay, critical of anyone who would discriminate against something she agreed people were born as. And thirdly, I’ve had ample time to prepare myself – mom was diagnosed with cancer for the second time 3 1/2 years ago.
I remember how, when visiting family in the US, she sat me and my brothers down and told us the whole truth of her diagnosis, that the doctors knew it was terminal. And especially vividly, I remember her looking us in the eye and saying, “No secrets from now on, ok?”
And yet still I never managed to tell her.
So many opportunities. So many days. So many times we sat on the couch and she’d start saying, “When you get a wife and kids…”. I can’t understand why I just never told her. Or let something slip, some clue, some signal so she could ask.
But actually, I do understand why I never told her. After being her sole care here at home (my brothers live in the US), I saw all of the difficult times she went through. All of the pain, the tears when she realised she would never see us grow into our adult lives.
I guess that I had seen her suffer enough. I didn’t want to shatter her dream of my future. I didn’t want to cause even more hurt. And as a result, I hid myself. I danced around subjects of life, of girlfriends, of my future, as if I were surrounded by knives, as if the slightest graze would shatter my façade.
And as a result, when my mother’s cancer won over her incredible fighting spirit, she passed on without knowing her son was gay.
But sometimes, I wonder. Why did she constantly bring up her plans for my future, for me to marry a wonderful girl and get children? Did she somehow know, despite my incredible skills of deception? Many have said that ‘mothers just know’. Did she? Was she trying to broach the subject?
It doesn’t matter now. But then again, it didn’t really matter then, either. I didn’t tell my mother because I thought I was caring for her. But in reality, I was being selfish. I didn’t realise that, while the truth can hurt, deception cuts deeper. I was hurting myself, and by hurting myself I couldn’t flourish and help my mom as well as I could.
I realise now that I have the same strength my mother had. I just never saw it before. I realise that, even if I had told her, we could have dealt with it. We could have talked.
It remains my biggest regret, not to come out to my mother. If I could, I would rewind time and change things. But I can’t.
So what is my point?
I agree that you shouldn’t come out unless you’re ready. But delaying the process, bottling it up, is horrible. Not letting your nearest and dearest know who you truly are is unbearable.
You’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did. Coming out is important, if not to let loved ones know who you really are, then for your own peace of mind.