Kirsten, my wife, knew Chris from high school -- it was during high school that Chris' parents, both very traditional Catholics, found out that Chris was gay. They promptly kicked him out of the house. Fortunately, Kirsten's mother allowed Chris to stay with them for several months until he got on his feet.
I first met Chris through Kirsten, as he was mutual friends of both her and my best friend Randall. At one point, Chris needed a place to stay, so he moved in with us for over a year. I even helped get him a job at this record store I managed.
I don't know what to say about Chris, exactly. It was a long time ago when he lived with us, and I can't say it was easy all the time. At first he was pretty responsible, but he got another job after the record store, started hanging out and doing drugs, gradually becoming more irresponsible and unhinged. All I can say is that I tried to help him and he failed to help himself, gradually becoming more of a burden than an asset to the household. He was certainly part of my circle of friends at one time, and yet I can't say that I missed his presence over the past few years. I didn't want to be burnt or burdened again.
Chris was also a good friend of Will, who was Randall's boyfriend at the time. Unfortunately, both Will and Chris had problems with drugs that hurt their lives and our friendships. It was their shared problems that brought the two of them together. Will went on to become a very successful hairstylist and tackled his drug problem, and went on to live as friends with Chris until fairly recently. Chris never really got control over his life, however. He had some psychological issues, as well as issues with drugs, and some real problems with being gay.
Chris didn't consider himself to be Catholic, but at the same time, he never really got over the guilt of being both Catholic and gay. As much as he was made an outcast by his family (and especially his mother), I think he wished more than anything that he could make things work out with his family. He wasn't accepted, and he never really accepted himself. About a year ago, he even joined one of those groups that tries converting people to "straightness". I thought it was a completely silly waste of time. Chris may have had a lot of faults, but being gay was not one of them. I really don't understand what it means to not accept oneself, but I certainly know how damaging it can be to people.
At first it looked as if Chris' mother was planning a funeral with a casket, which isn't what Chris would have wanted. Chris' funeral was quite delayed, due to issues regarding transporting the body. As a result, Chris' remains were cremated. This is good, in that didn't want a formal burial. However, he would have hated the ceremony and internment. Chris' mother apparently tried to exclude many of his friends from the funeral, especially those who were gay.
Well, today Kirsten, Will, and myself crashed the funeral, so to speak. It was a very Catholic funeral that said nothing about Chris as a person, the nature of his life or death, etc. It seemed rather inappropriate and surreal under the circumstances. The priest said that God had called Chris back to him, and that, because of his baptism, he would be protected by Jesus, "like a chick under the wings of a mother hen".
Chris' remains weren't spread to the air or buried in the ground, but put in a box which was stuck in a hole in a cinderblock wall next to the boxed, sealed incinerated remains of strangers. A ziplocked bag of personal effects was folded up and inserted alongside the metal box full of Chris. The hole in the wall was covered with a metal seal, like a square tin lid for a container of looseleaf tea. The crowd of onlookers then watched as Chris' remains were sealed in place in perpetuity by a thick layer of caulk. The wall was then sealed by a marble slab, which was held in place with large screws. No faceplate for Chris was in place at the time of the ceremony, so the whole procedure was both surreal and incomplete. The priest was talking with someone over in the corner, cheerful and relieved over a job well done.
I always try to reserve judgment on things I cannot prove, such as whether there is or isn't a god. However, if there is, I feel pretty confident that the Catholic Church (and those religions descended from it) are in no way qualified to interpret divine intent. It is altogether improper to indulge the idea that people (such as Chris) are predestined to go to heaven, but must live their lives in a world where their religion perpetuates unacceptable and unchristian value judgments. The Bible (and especially the New Testament) is rather unclear about homosexuality, but isn't it infinitely clear about not judging others? Was it Jesus' intent to issue the ten commandments, only to leave people in doubt as to whether they can eat crustaceans or have oral sex? Christianity, such as it is generally practiced, is stupid.
It was good to see Will again. It has been a long time since we last met, largely because he had a lot of issues to sort out in his life. He seems more mature, more comfortable, and happier with himself. Despite everything we've all been through, there is a strong undercurrent of friendship. We're supposed to go up to S.F. sometime soon and have dinner. He's also interested in getting back in touch with Randall, so hopefully things will come full circle, and we can take the best of the past and bring it into the future. That would be nice, as there are few substitutes in life for old friends.