43.5"/29.5" (chair height/table height) x 95" x 18"
Well, I tried to have this completed before Pride month was over, but there was just too much work involved. I’ve been working on this piece for several weeks now. It’s very special, for these chairs are the actual kitchen chairs that belonged to my grandmother.
The two small stained glass windows were given to me by the church that I grew up in down in South Arkansas. I was baptized at this church, and spent many a Sunday there. These are my treasures. They mean a great deal to me. Why? Because of the personal story that is connected to them.
One night 38 years ago, my grandmother and I sat in these very chairs finishing up our final meal of the day. Our normal routine after dinner usually consisted of her taking our plates to the kitchen, then I would wipe the table down and go running since I was playing sports in college at the time. This night however, was different.
As she stood up and walked away with our plates, I continued to sit at the table. I couldn’t move. I had something inside of me that was tearing me apart and I couldn’t stand the pain or depression any longer. It was time for it to come out.
She noticed that I had remained sitting with my head hanging low. “Is everything ok?” she asked. As soon as the words came out of her mouth I lost full control of my emotions. I started sobbing.
She dropped the dishes, walked back over to the table and sat down. She was concerned. “Tell me what’s wrong” she said. I tried to form the words, but the tears were pouring out so fast and hard, they were literally making a puddle on the table. I could barely breathe. She handed me a cold glass of water and a wet washcloth to wipe my face. She then sat there patiently waiting for me to compose myself.
I swallowed hard, eyes closed, face still covered with the washcloth and in total fear that the world would end if I uttered them, the words finally fell out of my mouth.
My voice seemed garbled to me between the sobs, but she heard me clearly.
“I know” she replied. “I was waiting for you to tell me.”
She then got up, walked over, placed her arm around my shoulder and hugged me. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard in my life.
“Do you still love me?” I asked, terrified of the possible response that had been haunting me for so long.
“Of course I do” she replied. “I will always love you no matter what.” “God does too, don’t you ever forget that or let anyone tell you otherwise.”
We sat there in each other’s arms and she held me until I finally stopped crying. She then helped me up out of the chair and walked me to my bedroom. I crawled in the bed, still fully clothed and she tucked me in. As she pulled the clean sheets up around my neck, she bent down and kissed my forehead. “I’ll always love you” she said again, then turned the lights off and walked over to shut the door. She didn’t shut it all the way. She left a little crack that night so she could hear me if started crying again or needed anything.
I will never forget that moment. She was the first, and for decades the only person in my family that I personally ever came out to.
I know dealing with my sexuality probably wasn’t easy for her, especially back in those days, but my grandmother was a real Christian. She was sitting in a pew every single time the church doors opened and even though it was a struggle, she did her very best to make sure I was sitting next to her as well. She also did something that many today do not. When the service was over and she left the church, she didn’t leave the lessons of love and compassion sitting on the pew behind her. She took it with her. She firmly believed that ‘Loving One Another’ was the most important command she was instructed to follow and that judging others was a sin. She lived and breathed this every single day.
As the years passed, there was always a place at her table for everyone. She cooked, she fed, she mentored, and she laughed with my gay friends, my straight friends, my black friends, my white friends, my male friends, my female friends, my Jewish friends, my Muslim friends, my poor friends, my wealthy friends, and she loved and treated every single one of them the same.
My grandmother always told me “You can take only take one thing with you when you die. Your reputation.” She was right. She had the status of an angel when she left.
I am naming this piece “Eucharist” because it was at this holy meal and at this holy table where I was personally shown what Christianity is SUPPOSED to be, and through her, where I first knew the meaning of unconditional love.
I built the table to illuminate the lessons of love that I learned through her and her strong beliefs in love, faith and compassion. I directed the light to then shine on both chairs representing the two beautiful souls that connected through unconditional love that night. It is also a reminder that her spirit still shines on through others to this very day. Those of you that knew her will agree with me.