Another first! I wrote a sermon! Crap, be gentle with me on that one, k?
We're gonna get Eddie out of this coma thing and move on with our story.
Some of you might want a tissue or two for this one (but I promise a couple of laughs, too)
THE PREACHER’S KID: HIGH SCHOOL
by Geoff Chassen
Chapter 8 – Unconditional
You know, people told me not to bother coming in and preaching today, I had enough on my plate. The irony of that is that the sermon I had planned to share with you today has been in the works for several weeks—and it needs to be delivered today more than anything else I can do right now.
You see, when I’m hurt, angry, and especially hurt AND angry—there’s only one way for me to fight back—and that’s with words. Today, I have three stories to share with you—stories of three amazing and courageous young men. All three of these stories are true—sadly true. You know two of these boys. And yes, they are both aware that—in their own words—I’m going to embarrass the heck out of them.
It seems that in the last week, I’ve had this same conversation with several people very close to our family and me. The conversation was about unconditional love. It’s a concept we’ve all heard of and are familiar with. It’s a concept that easy to explain to others, but I can also tell you from personal experience, it’s a very difficult concept to apply.
So let’s imagine you have a beautiful young daughter. As she begins growing, you notice something different about her. Could it be possible that she’s left-handed? How can that be? Everyone else in the family is nor... I mean, right-handed. You find there’s a special place that will convert a left-handed child to a right-handed child. Would you send your child to such a place?
Here’s another scenario. You have a beautiful toddler boy. He’s running all over the place, getting into to all sorts of things he shouldn’t. But wait—are those green eyes? How is that possible? Everyone in your family has brown eyes. This just isn’t right. You know there isn’t any kind of special place where you can send your child that will change the color of his eyes. What do you do? Pray away the green?
Let’s say you have a beautiful teenage son. He’s athletic—making his mark in several team sports through the years. His grades are excellent and you, along with your spouse, are both proud parents. That is until you begin to realize that your son appears to be attracted to other boys. What? How can this be? There are no gay people in your family! What do you do? Send your child to a special place that will convert him into a straight lifestyle? No? Will you “pray away the gay?”
You see—in all three cases, Jesus has already told us what to do. Love. Pure and simple. Just love. Because, in all three cases, science has proven that these children were born with the exact traits that have made them seem different.
If that’s the case, then we must realize that God created each and every one of us—including those three children—just the way we are. God doesn’t make mistakes. We are ALL perfect in the eyes of God. And all those things we tend to judge ourselves for—things like skin tone, height, weight, hair color, and yes—sexuality—those are the things that make us perfect in God’s eye. And Jesus tells us to love each other—in spite of those made-up flaws—love each other as we love ourselves. And then, as a perfect punctuation mark, Jesus tells us that THAT is the greatest commandment of them all.
So how does all this relate to what I’m here to tell you? I guess the best place to begin is several months ago when Sue Jacobs—a dear friend of our family and a member of our church passed away after a brief illness. That was a particularly difficult time for my immediate family, our church family, and most difficult for the Jacobs family.
It would break my heart whenever I would see Matthew sneak into my son’s room looking for comfort from the only person he felt he could talk to. My son was pretty amazing as he helped his friend through a dark and sometimes hopeless time in his life. But I can tell you that as difficult the times were for our families, Mags and I were so proud of the bond that our sons developed as they learned to deal with something no teenager should ever have to deal with.
Sadly, George had a more difficult, and a much darker time when his world was turned upside down. George didn’t feel he had anyone—or anything—he could turn to other than alcohol. Now, before any of you start to judge George—and I’m sure you won’t as I’ve taught you better—but George is now seeking professional help and is well on the way to a full recovery and the productive, wonderful life he once had.
But it was Matthew who seems to have taken the full brunt of George’s dark path. You see, about four months ago, George began to have questions and suspicions about his son’s life. He began to wonder why Matthew never talked about girls he might be dating. He began to wonder why Matthew spent so much time with our son.
Those questions soon turned into accusations—which turned into heated arguments—which turned into physical abuse. A little over a week ago, my son found Matty outside his bedroom window, bleeding quite heavily from a wound to his head.
The next morning, Mags and Eddie—yes, that’s my son’s name now—took Matthew to the emergency room while I went next door to pay a visit to my friend, George. I found a man who was not himself. I found a man who was lost. I also found a man who was willing to do whatever it took to make things right again with his son.
Mags and I decided to take Matthew into our home until his father is well again. I am happy to say that Matthew is doing great. He’s handled the entire situation better than most of us could, and I couldn’t be prouder of the boy who has always been a part of our family since he was born.
It was Matthew’s second night with us when I suggested we watch a film. I had heard about this movie from a colleague who thought it would make for a good sermon topic. The film is “Boy Erased,” and it tells the true story of Garrard Conley. Garrard is the son of a Southern Baptist minister who was forced to participate in a church-sanctioned gay conversion therapy program AFTER he was forcibly outed to his parents by a spurned boyfriend.
Now, as most of you are familiar with my relationship with the Southern Baptists, I found the film fascinating, but more than that, it disturbed me that a parent could force—not suggest—FORCE his own child to participate in something that is widely known as harmful and to many, deadly. Many of you were with me the day I decided I could no longer be a part of a denomination that was brimming with such judgemental people.
But it was my family’s discussion of the film that made me take a look at my feelings on the subject. One point brought up was the concern that I’ve never spoken on the subject of sexuality to this church. I didn’t think that would be a problem. I know this congregation is fairly progressive and open-minded.
But it was Matthew who asked Mags and me what our thoughts on sexuality were. I told him that if any of my children were to tell me they were gay, I couldn’t love them any less. For me, it’s all about unconditional love.
When Jesus tells us to love each other as we love ourselves, that’s it. There are no conditions. There is nothing that says, “Unless that person is…” Well, you can fill in the blank with hundreds of things. Jesus directs us to love. Period. Everyone. Period. And that’s not easy. It’s never easy. I get it!
But then, without warning—Oh, and here’s the part where I get to embarrass him—Matthew broke down, sobbing into his best friend’s chest. Mags and I didn’t know what was going on. Eddie looked more than a little terrified. And then, through the sobs, four words. Four. Simple. Words.
“He’s right, ya know.” I was still confused, but in hindsight, I see the entire course of events quite clearly. You see, when Matthew asked for our opinions on the topic, he was asking for very personal reasons.
He later told me the reason he started crying was due to the deep sadness he had that his own father didn’t feel that way. “He’s right, ya know.” Those four words were Matthew telling me the hardest thing he’s ever told another person. Matthew told me that his father’s suspicions were true, that he indeed was gay.
I did what any father—real or surrogate—should do without a moment’s hesitation. I took Matthew in my arms and told him again about unconditional love and how my feelings for him hadn’t changed in the slightest. But then I surprised myself.
For you see, my feelings for Matthew did change. I was so proud of that young man. His courage and sincerity brought a new level of respect and admiration for him. He did the bravest thing he had ever done in his young life. He came out to the people who loved him. No matter what. THAT’S unconditional love.
But I have to say, Mag’s answer to Matthew’s question left me so extremely proud of the woman I married. She told Matthew that if one of her children told her they were gay, she’d probably make sure to love them a little bit more—just to make up for all the hardship that was bound to come their way.
I’m sorry—I promised myself I wouldn’t get emotional today. But you see, my wife’s beautiful words have never rung more true.
You see, Eddie—my son—my namesake—is lying in a coma because he finally garnered the courage to tell his friends and family that he is also gay. My son is recovering from injuries he received from an angry schoolmate—well, a former schoolmate—wielding a baseball bat.
My son found the true meaning of unconditional love from his circle of friends, who came over to our house to show their support for Matthew and Eddie after this angry boy outed them as a couple over social media.
My son and Matthew found the true meaning of unconditional love—and support—from the hundreds, if not thousands of fellow students who showed them that they were still thought of as upstanding young student-athletes and friends.
I watched those two boys grow up together from the day they were born. I’ve watched their friendship blossom and grow into something that few could understand, but all who knew them appreciated and respected. So when these two boys told me that they were in love with each other, it was just the next step in their relationship.
I fiercely love both of those boys—unconditionally. I get that. That’s the easy part. But please forgive me because while I’m your pastor, I’m also a grieving, angry father. I know Jesus gave us this unconditional love thing and meant it for everyone. But right now, I can’t find a way to have an unconditional love for the boy who beat my son—my flesh and blood—into a coma.
I pray that someday, I will be able to change that. I ask you of your own prayers so that I may see a kinder and gentler way through this situation. I pray that—
Mags and Matthew interrupted my sermon. That has never happened in the twenty years I’ve been a pastor!
“He’s awake! Eddie’s awake!”
Please pray for my boy! I’m going to turn things over to Pastor Bill. I need to get to the hospital now that Eddie’s coming out of his coma. Thank you. My family and I love you. God Bless us all!
I couldn’t believe it when Mrs. H. and I got the group text from Haley. She was staying with Eddie while Mrs. H. and I went to church. She also had Nathan with her.
When Mrs. H. interrupted the sermon, everything kinda went into a whirlwind. Mr. H. stepped down to the front pew where we were sitting, took our hands, and led us out the front of the church. What surprised the Hell out of me was that as we were walking up the center aisle, every damned person in that building was on their feet and applauding.
It wasn’t until the three of us were in the car that we finally looked at each other and realized we were all crying. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced so much love and support in my entire life.
“Wow—Mr. H.—that was—”
“Yes, darling, I know. But dear—we need to get to the hospital and be with our boy.”
We had fifteen minutes to get to the hospital, and I just sat back and thought back to Friday afternoon and all the Hell that broke loose after the game.
According to Brandon, he was sitting at the back of the bus when he heard someone yell, “fucking faggot!” Brandon looked out the window and saw Harper swing a baseball bat, landing it squarely on Eddie’s back. Eddie fell forward and landed on the right side of his face down on the pavement.
Brandon swung open the emergency exit and jumped down, landing on Harper just as he swung the bat at Eddie’s head. While the bat still made contact with Eddie’s head, it could have been much, much worse had Brandon not been there when he was.
In just seconds, five others on the team had Harper on the ground, holding him down until help arrived. Several of the guys had called 9-1-1, and the response was close to immediate since there were cops and an ambulance on-site for the game.
The cops took Harper away while two others kept Brandon around for questioning. He got permission to text the Hamilton’s to let them know that there had been an incident and Eddie was on the way to Carolinas Medical Center.
After Brandon’s interview with the cops, they were super cool and took him to the hospital to be with Eddie and the family. Fuck! Brandon was a superhero in my book!
It seemed like forever from the time we all got to the hospital and the doctors came out to tell us what was going on with Eddie. They told us he had some major contusions across his back, but he was lucky to have a good muscle base as that probably prevented any fractures on his spine.
The main problem was that Eddie suffered two serious concussions. The first was from the initial fall to the pavement. The second was from the bat. There was a pretty nasty cut where the bat hit his head, and there was a crack in his skull to deal with as well.
The had to take Eddie up to surgery to remove a portion of his skull to relieve the pressure from the swelling. They were also worried that Eddie had not regained consciousness since being brought in.
After surgery, they put him in the ICU for twenty-four hours. They told us they were going to keep him heavily sedated to let the brain settle. They would ease up on the sedation after that and hope that Eddie wakes up within the next 24 hours.
At first, it didn’t look like I was going to get to see my boyfriend until he was out of the ICU. But somehow, Mr. H. pulled some sort of magic and told the head nurse that I was his foster brother and best friend. Mr. H. felt that knowing I was there for him could only help Eddie recover. That was so fucking ACE! Especially since it worked, and I got my own 5-minute visit with the boy who was my whole world.
Before I could go in, they made me put on hospital clothes, a hairnet, and a facemask. I’m glad Eddie was out of it when I walked in, cause I can only guess what my face looked like when I saw him for the first time.
Eddie’s head was all wrapped up in white bandages, and he had a mask over his mouth and nose. The right side of his face was all swollen and scratched up from the pavement. He might have looked like shit, but seeing him was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I knew right then and there that I would love Eddie for the rest of my life. I also knew that no matter what, I was going to make it my mission in life to protect him and make sure he was always safe. No one—not even Donald-fucking-Harper—was going to take my Eddie away from me—or the amazing family that loves him more than life.
The hospital peeps told us to go home for the evening since there was really nothing we could do until morning. They would be keeping close tabs on the swelling on Eddie’s brain, and if all goes well, they would begin easing him off the meds when he began to stabilize.
When we got home, Mrs. H. put some dinner together, and we all tried to eat. I don’t think any of us were hungry, though. While we were picking at our food, it was pretty quiet—that is until Hurricane Haley came bursting into the room.
“I left as soon as you called, Mom! How is he? Is Eddie okay?”
“Sissy! Some mean guy beat Eddie up pretty bad. He won’t wake up!”
“Awwww, Nugget!” Haley went over to Nathan and wrapped him in her arms. That’s all it took for Nathan to start sobbing into his sister’s chest. That was my trigger—I just sat in my chair and totally lost it, sobbing into my plate of food.
Mr. H. got up from his chair and took me in his arms, while Mrs. H. wrapped Haley and Nathan in hers. For the next few minutes, all five of us let it all go as we cried out the stress and tension we’ve been keeping in.
Thank God Haley lightened the mood with, “I’m glad Eddie can’t see the five of us right now! He’d probably film us, post it on YouTube, and we’d never live this down!”
Mrs. H. fixed Haley a plate, and we finally managed to eat some food. I think we all felt better afterward.
After dinner, I helped Mrs. H. with the dishes, and Haley commented that Eddie was gonna hate me for doing that since it was going to be expected from him now.
Mr. H. had everyone meet in the kitchen after we finished cleaning up and told us he had been thinking long and hard about it, but he was determined to go ahead with his sermon on Sunday. We already knew what he had planned to talk about, but when he said it was probably the most personal and important sermon he will ever deliver, he had to do it—but he wouldn’t if the family felt he shouldn’t.
Mrs. H sighed and gave her full support. All I could do was look down at the floor and shake my head. “Well, Mr. H., I know you’re gonna talk about me in this sermon. And if it’s not gonna happen on Sunday, It’ll happen soon enough. So we might as well get it over with.”
Haley bumped my shoulder and said, “Dang, Matty! You really are a part of the family now!”
I leaned into her and whispered, “I guess we need to talk, huh?”
I asked the parents if I could be excused to I could talk to Haley out on the patio, which they agreed to, having a pretty good idea what I was going to say. Mrs. H. poured us a couple of iced teas, and we headed out back.
“I’m glad you came down, Haley. That’ll mean a lot to Eddie—I mean when he wakes up. I mean—if he wakes up.” Fuck! I totally lost it. I just started sobbing.
Haley scooted her chair right in front of mine, so our knees were touching. He took my hands in hers and said, “You love him, don’t you?”
All I could do was nod my head.
“Dude—it’s okay, ya know. I think all of us have just been waiting for the inevitable to happen. Two people can’t be as close as you and my brother and not fall in love.”
Again, all I could do was nod my head.
“And just so you know, I always kinda thought Eddie was probably gay. And now that I know he is, I couldn’t be happier that he has you for a boyfriend. Mom and Dad said the support you guys got was amazing. Gotta love Instagram and Facebook, huh?”
“Does Nathan know?”
“We wanted to tell him together. We planned on doing it this weekend, but then this happened.”
“Maybe you guys can tell him when Eddie wakes up—and yes, that punk brother of mine is gonna wake up. He’s a lot stronger than any of us want to realize.”
“God, I hope so. I don’t know what I’d do if—well, you know.”
“He’s gonna be fine. Don’t you think if there were a problem the hospital would have called by now? He’s resting. He’s stabilizing. And between you and me. He knows he has you waiting for him. Hell, he’s a damned lucky kid, if you ask me.”
“I’m the lucky one. Eddie saved my life after Dad—well, do you know about that?”
“Yeah, Mom filled me in. I’m really sorry about what your old man did, but he’s gonna get better, too.”
I looked at Haley, and for the first time, I realized something. “Hey—what’s with you? You actually look kinda—I don’t know—normal.”
“I guess I’ve kinda grown out of my rebellion stage. I don’t need to drive Mom and Dad crazy with purple hair or goth clothes. But—between you and me—I got a tattoo!”
“No! What? Where?”
“It’s on my hip. I got this beautiful, ornate heart.”
Haley pushed the waistband of her shorts down and showed me her art. “Whoah! That’s beautiful! Did it hurt?”
“Like a motherfucker! But now I can say I have a 24/7 heart on!”
Finally! I was able to laugh. I’ve always like Haley—even when Eddie claimed he didn’t. She has this great energy about her and is just a lot of fun.
Haley and I took a sip of our tea, and she leaned into me so our foreheads were touching. “So Matty, have you two fucked yet?”
Wow! That shocked the shit outta me! “I can’t believe you just asked me that!”
“Oh, get over yourself. Look—one of my roomies is gay, and he is fucking his boyfriend three and four times a week. From the noise they make, it sure must feel awesome. I just wish it felt half that good when my boyfriend bones me!”
“Whoah, This is not where I thought this talk was gonna go!”
“Well? Have you?”
I think I must have blushed 50 shades of red. “I’m not gonna answer that.”
“You just did. Was it awesome?”
“Yes. I had no idea it could be so—”
“Did you fuck Eddie?”
“No. He did me.”
“Wow! He is one damned lucky kid!”
“No. I’m the lucky one. Eddie is the most amazing boyfriend. He has this amazing way he takes care of me without making me feel needy—or submissive—or less a dude. You know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I think so—He just treats you like Matty. Not really any different than he’s ever treated you—or you, him.”
“Right! Except there’s kissing now.”
“And fucking—don’t forget the fucking!”
“How could I!?! But—we’ve only done that once.”
“That’s all it takes, ya know. I’m so happy for both of you. Maybe Eddie will be a little more bearable now.”
We each took another sip of tea as Mrs. H. stuck her head out the back door. “Kids, We’re going to be leaving for the hospital at 8:00 in the morning. You might want to clean up and get to bed. It could be a long day tomorrow.”
We went inside and, after saying goodnight to each other, upstairs to our rooms. I stripped down and realized that this was the first time in over a week that I’d taken my clothes off in this room and didn’t see my boyfriend lusting over my body.
I smiled and shook my head, then cried as I readied my shower—nice and hot—I needed to make sure all the bullshit of the day was washed down the drain.
The shower was great. Sleep? Not so much. It was 6:30 in the morning a lot sooner than I wanted it to be.
After breakfast, the Hamilton family and I loaded into the car and made our way to the hospital. When we arrived, a nurse advocate met us and told us that Eddie had an excellent night, and the swelling in his brain had gone down. The doctors were going to start easing Eddie off the sedatives this afternoon, but we shouldn’t expect him to be awake until sometime tomorrow.
He was still in the ICU, and the plan was to move him into a private room as soon as one became available. So basically, that made the entire day miserably long and boring—except for the two times I got to go in and hold Eddie’s hand while I had a one-sided conversation with him.
I just told him how much I loved him and needed him to get well as soon as he could cuz I wasn’t going to like sleeping alone in our bed. What was that? Did Eddie squeeze my hand when I said our bed? Must have been my imagination.
Hospital cafeteria food is some nasty-ass shit! And we had to suffer through lunch and dinner! Once Eddie started eating that crap, I have a feeling he’s going to do whatever he can to get his as home back to his mom’s cooking!
By the time we were finishing dinner, they had come into the cafeteria to tell us Eddie had been moved into a private room. He was still out, but we were welcome to say goodnight before we went home for the evening.
Mrs. H. said she was planning to stay with Eddie through the night in case he woke up, but the nurse lady said that he wouldn’t be waking up until tomorrow, so we should all get a good night’s sleep. They promised to let us know if there were any changes at all.
So that’s what we did. We headed home and picked up a shitload of Bojangle’s fried chicken and sides so Mrs. H. wouldn’t have to cook. Hell, that was okay with me! I love me some Bojangle’s—it’s the best North Carolina restaurant in my book!
The next morning—Sunday—Haley drove her car to the hospital with Nathan. Mr. and Mr.s H. decided they didn’t want the kid to find out about his brother and me through a sermon, and I assured them we were going to tell him together as soon as we could. That seemed to satisfy them, and the three of us headed to Rising Hope Church.
And now, we are pulling into the parking garage at the hospital. I still can’t believe how cool the people at the church were about my sordid story—and Eddie’s. I guess it’s really more about the person you actually are and not so much about who you are in love with.
Speaking of—Eddie’s awake! My beautiful boy is back!
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. It was fun writing something new... who knows? If I didn't piss off too many people with the sermon thing, we might get another one from Pastor Clay down the road.
Next chapter will feature Eddie and Matty telling Nathan about their relationship. I promise, it's going to be a bit of a surprise--but I'll be sure to put in some of the adorable factor, too!
Thanks for following my story! Please let me know what you think! It's your comments that motivate me to continue writing!