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Speaking in Code

STORY: My second buddy was a florist who lived at home. I’d bring him to Ray’s and my house where we’d dangle our feet in the pool, and talk about spirituality and death.

When he died, his mother told me that he wanted me to speak at his funeral. She stipulated, though, that I couldn’t say he was gay, nor how he died.

In the early 1980s, there wasn’t much family acceptance, much less pride, and AIDS was thought of as a shameful disease. Rather than not speak, I agreed and talked in code to the appreciative gay men, all of whom sat together in the back rows.

Jimmy was a florist, I reminded them, who knew that a flower’s duty was to bloom, regardless of whether others liked or appreciated it. He appreciated the beauty of all flowers and loved himself as a unique, beautiful flower that had bloomed as nature intended.

His elderly aunts thought the imagery was lovely, his mother’s fears were quieted, and I smiled feeling that Jimmy would have been grateful for the effort.


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