|Mary Lou and Bob Wallner|
Mary Lou Wallner
I used to think that the only way to relate to gays was to confront them. I had no use for them. I didn’t understand them, and I was judgmental and arrogant. And then that lifestyle touched our home.
Eleven years ago at about 5:15 p.m. on Dec. 8, 1988. I had just walked into the house from work with the mail in my hand. There was a letter from my daughter, Anna. I opened it with the pleasure of anticipation that a mom feels when she hears from her daughter who is away at college. Her letter was dated Dec. 4, 1988. She told me that lots had happened in her life with regard to her sexuality. She said men had taken advantage of her and she always thought it was wrong to have sexual feelings at all. She said she’d fought long and hard to be comfortable and now she was. She said she was comfortable with women. She loved women. She wanted to be gay.
She went on to say she loved me and hoped I wouldn’t try to change her or anything. She said she loved God and knew He loved her.
About two weeks later, I answered Anna’s letter. It was December 20, 1988. I told her I was devastated by her letter. Please allow me to quote this one paragraph from my letter to Anna:
"Undoubtedly the most difficult part of your letter was gay thing. I will NEVER accept that in you. feel its a terrible wastebesides being spiritually and morally wrong. For reason dont quite fathom have harder time dealing with issue than almost anything world. do continue to love YOUbut always hate pray every day change mind attitude."
Almost two years later, August 13, 1989, and I was taking Anna back to the airport to go back to college after playing the piano at her cousin’s wedding. I told her that IF she ever decided she wanted to get her act together, she was welcome to come home.
What followed was more than 7 stormy years, at best. We had a few good times, but not many.
In July of 1996, I wrote Anna another letter, because I’d not received a birthday card or a Mother’s Day card and had had very little contact with her during that year. I told her I wanted to make things right with her, if she was willing, even though I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d done to cause her to pull away from me.
About two weeks letter, mid-August 1996, I received a letter back from Anna. She basically said she wanted nothing more to do with me, that I was her mother biologically only, that I had stolen her childhood from her, and that I had done colossal damage to her soul with my shaming words. She was done with me, and didn’t want me in her life, not then, maybe not ever. She told me she could not, did not want to and did not have to forgive me.
She told me she’d return letters unopened, she refused to give me her home phone number, and I could have her pager number for emergency use only. And, if I paged her and she discovered it was NOT an emergency, she would hang up on me. She said she needed space to heal and asked me to leave her alone. I was crushed. I cried for hours.
I sought advice from a counselor Anna had seen when she was living at home, several friends and many family members. To a person, all said the same thing: You must respect Anna’s wishes and give her the space she needs. That’s what I wanted to hear and that’s what I did.
I keep wondering what would have happened if, after receiving her letter, I had grabbed my toothbrush, credit card and car keys, driven the 550 miles to where she was living and told her that I loved her no matter what. I didn’t do that. The worst part is that I’ll never be able to do that. Because on February 28, 1997 at 10:00 p.m., I received a phone call from my ex-husband and Anna’s Dad. At about 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, Anna had been found hanging from the bar in her closet. She had been dead for 15 hours. It was ruled a suicide by the coroner–no autopsy, no note, no nothing—but days, weeks, months and years of pain and anguish.
I have heard it said that when a loved one dies of suicide, there is a sense of utter failure. And the worst part of it was that I was a failure as a Mom to Anna. I did not love her adequately OR unconditionally.
And that’s why I’m here today/tonight. If I can steer one of you away from the pain and anguish I’ve been living, then maybe Anna’s death will have meaning.
In I Corinthians 13 Jesus said, among other things, "Love is patient…and kind. Love is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres."
I displayed none of that.
Throughout these past 2 1/2 years, I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching to figure out just what part I played in Anna’s death. I’ve had to wrestle with who I am and how I treated my own flesh and blood. I’ve had to repeatedly ask myself 2 questions and I’m going to ask them again today/tonight:
The first one is: Have I EVER been changed by someone’s criticism? Pause
And #2, who are the people who have influenced me by unconditional love?
Mary Lou and Bob Wallner
I am the stepfather of Anna Wakefield who took her own life while living in the gay lifestyle. Her death totally devastated me. Earlier, when I found out that she was gay, I became angry and didn’t know how to respond to her. She decided to separate herself from our family and we were estranged at the time of her death.
Over the next two years, I learned a great deal about the gay lifestyle, and wished that I had known then what I know now. I would have treated Anna much more lovingly and accepted her for who she was.
I’m going to Lynchburg to try to find ways that I can promote a loving atmosphere and abolish the rejection and hate shown to all those in the gay lifestyle. These wonderful people have been so poorly treated and deserve love, not rejection.