Just Because He Breathes

Just Because He Breathes

June 1, 2009 – 2nd Day of 17 Days in Harborview

On the night of November 20, 2001, a conversation held over Instant Messenger changed our lives forever. Our twelve year old son messaged me in my office from the computer in his bedroom.

Ryan says: can i tell u something
Mom says: Yes I am listening
Ryan says: well i don’t know how to say this really but, well……, i can’t keep lying to you about myself. I have been hiding this for too long and i sorta have to tell u now. By now u probably have an idea of what i am about to say.
Ryan says: I am gay
Ryan says: i can’t believe i just told you
Mom says: Are you joking?
Ryan says: no
Ryan says: i thought you would understand because of uncle don
Mom says: of course I would
Mom says: but what makes you think you are?
Ryan says: i know i am
Ryan says: i don’t like hannah
Ryan says: it’s just a cover-up
Mom says: but that doesn’t make you gay…
Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: but u don’t understand
Ryan says: i am gay
Mom says: tell me more
Ryan says: it’s just the way i am and it’s something i know
Ryan says: u r not a lesbian and u know that. it is the same thing
Mom says: what do you mean?
Ryan says: i am just gay
Ryan says: i am that
Mom says: I love you no matter what
Ryan says: i am white not black
Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: i am a boy not a girl
Ryan says: i am attracted to boys not girls
Ryan says: u know that about yourself and i know this
Mom says: what about what God thinks about acting on these desires?
Ryan says: i know
Mom says: thank you for telling me
Ryan says: and i am very confused about that right now
Mom says: I love you more for being honest
Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: thanx

We were completely shocked. Not that we didn’t know and love gay people – my only brother had come out to us several years before, and we adored him. But Ryan? He was unafraid of anything, tough as nails, and ALL boy. We had not seen this coming, and the emotion that overwhelmed us, kept us awake at night and, sadly, influenced all of our reactions over the next six years, was FEAR.

We said all the things that we thought loving Christian parents who believed the Bible – the Word of God – should say:

We love you. We will ALWAYS love you. And this is hard. REALLY hard. But we know what God says about this, and so you are going to have to make some really difficult choices.

We love you. We couldn’t love you more. But there are other men who have faced this same struggle, and God has worked in them to change their desires. We’ll get you their books…you can listen to their testimonies. And we will trust God with this.

We love you. We are so glad you are our son. But you are young, and your sexual orientation is still developing. The feelings you’ve had for other guys don’t make you gay. So please don’t tell anyone that you ARE gay. You don’t know who you are yet. Your identity is not that you are gay – it is that you are a child of God.

We love you. Nothing will change that. But if you are going to follow Jesus, holiness is your only option. You are going to have to choose to follow Jesus, no matter what. And since you know what the Bible says, and since you want to follow God, embracing your sexuality is NOT an option.

We thought we understood the magnitude of the sacrifice that we – and God – were asking for. And this sacrifice, we knew, would lead to the abundant life, perfect peace and eternal rewards. Ryan had always felt intensely drawn to spiritual things; He desired to please God above all else. So, for the first six years, he tried to choose Jesus. Like so many others before him, he pleaded with God to help him be attracted to girls. He memorized Scripture, met with his youth pastor weekly, enthusiastically participated in all the church youth group events and Bible Studies and got baptized. He read all the books that claimed to know where his gay feelings came from, dove into counseling to further discover the “why’s” of his unwanted attraction to other guys, worked through painful conflict resolution with my husband and I, and built strong friendships with other guys – straight guys – just like the reparative therapy experts advised. He even came out to his entire youth group, giving his testimony of how God had rescued him from the traps of the enemy, and sharing – by memory – verse after verse that God had used to draw Ryan to Himself.

But nothing changed. God didn’t answer his prayer – or ours – though we were all believing with faith that the God of the Universe – the God for whom NOTHING is impossible – could easily make Ryan straight. But He did not.

Though our hearts may have been good (we truly thought what we were doing was loving), we did not even give Ryan a chance to wrestle with God, to figure out what HE believed God was telling him through scripture about his sexuality. We had believed firmly in giving each of our four children the space to question Christianity, to decide for themselves if they wanted to follow Jesus, to truly OWN their own faith. But we were too afraid to give Ryan that room when it came to his sexuality, for fear that he’d make the wrong choice.

Basically, we told our son that he had to choose between Jesus and his sexuality. We forced him to make a choice between God and being a sexual person. Choosing God, practically, meant living a lifetime condemned to being alone. He would never have the chance to fall in love, have his first kiss, hold hands, share intimacy and companionship or experience romance.

And so, just before his 18th birthday, Ryan, depressed, suicidal, disillusioned and convinced that he would never be able to be loved by God, made a new choice. He decided to throw out his Bible and his faith at the same time, and to try searching for what he desperately wanted – peace – another way. And the way he chose to try first was drugs.

We had – unintentionally – taught Ryan to hate his sexuality. And since sexuality cannot be separated from the self, we had taught Ryan to hate himself. So as he began to use drugs, he did so with a recklessness and a lack of caution for his own safety that was alarming to everyone who knew him.

Suddenly our fear of Ryan someday having a boyfriend (a possibility that honestly terrified me) seemed trivial in contrast to our fear of Ryan’s death, especially in light of his recent rejection of Christianity, and his mounting anger at God.

Ryan started with weed and beer…but in six short months was using cocaine, crack and heroin. He was hooked from the beginning, and his self-loathing and rage at God only fueled his addiction. Shortly after, we lost contact with him. For the next year and a half we didn’t know where he was, or even if he was dead or alive. And during that horrific time, God had our full attention. We stopped praying for Ryan to become straight. We started praying for him to know that God loved him. We stopped praying for him never to have a boyfriend. We started praying that someday we might actually get to know his boyfriend. We even stopped praying for him to come home to us; we only wanted him to come home to God.

By the time our son called us, after 18 long months of silence, God had completely changed our perspective. Because Ryan had done some pretty terrible things while using drugs, the first thing he asked me was this:

Do you think you can ever forgive me? (I told him of course, he was already forgiven. He had ALWAYS been forgiven.)

Do you think you could ever love me again? (I told him that we had never stopped loving him, not for one second. We loved him then more than we had ever loved him.)

Do you think you could ever love me with a boyfriend? (Crying, I told him that we could love him with fifteen boyfriends. We just wanted him back in our lives. We just wanted to have a relationship with him again…AND with his boyfriend.)

And a new journey was begun. One of healing, restoration, open communication and grace. LOTS of grace. And God was present every step of the way, leading and guiding us, gently reminding us simply to love our son, and leave the rest up to Him.

Over the next ten months, we learned to truly love our son. Period. No buts. No conditions. Just because he breathes. We learned to love whoever our son loved. And it was easy. What I had been so afraid of became a blessing. The journey wasn’t without mistakes, but we had grace for each other, and the language of apology and forgiveness became a natural part of our relationship. As our son pursued recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, we pursued him. God taught us how to love him, to rejoice over him, to be proud of the man he was becoming. We were all healing…and most importantly, Ryan began to think that if WE could forgive him and love him, then maybe God could, too.

And then Ryan made the classic mistake of a recovering addict…he got back together with his old friends…his using friends. And one evening that was supposed to simply be a night at the movies turned out to be the first time he had shot up in ten months…and the last time. We got a phone call from a social worker at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle asking us to come identify our son – that he had arrived there in a coma, in critical condition. We spent 17 days at Harborview, during which time our whole family was able to surround and love on Ryan. We experienced miracle after miracle during that time, things that no doctor had any medical explanation for. God’s presence was TANGIBLE in Ryan’s room. But that is a long, sacred story that I’ll have to tell another time.

Though Ryan had suffered such severe brain damage that he had almost complete paralysis, the doctors told us that he could very well outlive us. But, unexpectedly, Ryan died on July 16, 2009. And we lost the ability to love our gay son…because we no longer had a gay son. What we had wished for…prayed for…hoped for…that we would NOT have a gay son, came true. But not at all in the way we used to envision.

Now, when I think back on the fear that governed all my reactions during those first six years after Ryan told us he was gay, I cringe as I realize how foolish I was. I was afraid of all the wrong things. And I grieve, not only for my oldest son, who I will miss every day for the rest of my life, but for the mistakes I made. I grieve for what could have been, had we been walking by FAITH instead of by FEAR. Now, whenever Rob and I join our gay friends for an evening, I think about how much I would love to be visiting with Ryan and his partner over dinner. But instead, we visit Ryan’s gravestone. We celebrate anniversaries: the would-have-been birthdays and the unforgettable day of his death. We wear orange – his color. We hoard memories: pictures, clothing he wore, handwritten notes, lists of things he loved, tokens of his passions, recollections of the funny songs he invented, his Curious George and baseball blankey, anything, really, that reminds us of our beautiful boy…for that is all we have left, and there will be no new memories.  We rejoice in our adult children, and in our growing family as they marry…but ache for the one of our “gang of four” who is missing. We mark life by the days BC (before coma) and AD (after death), because we are different people now; our life was irrevocably changed – in a million ways – by his death. We treasure friendships with others who “get it”…because they, too, have lost a child.

We weep. We seek Heaven for grace and mercy and redemption as we try – not to get better but to be better. And we pray that God can somehow use our story to help other parents learn to truly love their children. Just because they breathe.

Linda Diane Robertson
Originally posted on FaceBook on January 14, 2013 – Ryan’s would-have-been-24 birthday
An expanded, live version of this story, presented at the June 2013 Exodus International Conference can be seen here.

Note: If you’d like to see an example of the beautiful, gracious, loving soul who was the person of Ryan David Robertson, read the letter that he wrote to my husband, Ryan’s dad, on Father’s Day 2009, just 9 days before his accidental overdose. We’ve included a picture of the original letter, blown up into poster-size, which hangs in our bathroom to remind us of GRACE.

1,529 thoughts on “Just Because He Breathes

  1. Claudia S.

    Linda,
    I read your story, thank you so much for opening your heart through your writing. My heart sends you love and support as you go through your journey, your loss of your son, and learning from his story.

    You know, what stood out to me a lot was how he coped – drugs. And how the healer of his pain was ultimately not the drugs, but the best medicine for the heart, LOVE…
    And so that healed him, along with him being open to receiving this love.
    I’m saddened that a relapse happened, that his body couldn’t take it anymore, that he overdosed.
    I’m saddened that you were there, turning this stodgy around, and then the overdose.
    That is NOT YOUR FAULT. You see, I know we all make mistakes, and at times act in ways that we later regret. We all are trying our best, and you did as well. All of those people who judge you, criticize you, hate , and all that, well, that’s their way of coping with pain. Healthy? Instrumental ? Only they can decide that. I think the story here is about unconditional love. And giving it in circumstances that you would least want to or expect. Well people should show that to you also, we all make mistakes. We are all blind at times.
    You did the best you could at the time. You didn’t pick up your son’s hand and put drugs in his body. You didn’t overdose him. You have to remember that you would have never picked drugs for him. And as much as I would love to say that we can control the acts of others under circumstances like these, we can’t. People, our children, they are out of our hands to some degree. They are always in God’s hands. Find peace in your heart knowing that you didn’t kill him, or cause his death. Your reaction, your feelings, his feelings, all of it made sense. What doesn’t make sense sometimes is how we cope. Who do we blame for how we process our pain? Some, like you have experienced from your writing, attack verbally and hate, others rebel, others use drugs, others do so many different things, some healthy ways present, some not. It’s about coping when life happens. And drugs, well they lie to people that are already vulnerable and suffering, making them believe that they can take all the pain away… Well these drugs and escaping , that way of coping takes lives… Who do we blame? No one, it’s always about choices and escaping in ways where we can live a healthy and long life, if that is our story to fulfill. God bless you…
    I am a clinical psychologist, and am happy to provide support if you would like. I am also very grounded on my faith.

    Claudia

    Reply
  2. Ryan Untisz

    Linda,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am a gay man myself, and I went through years of challenge with my parents when I came out. I thank you so very much for being brave enough to share what happened with your son. I feel awful that members of my community would reach out to you with hate, and wish only the best for you and yours. I know that if my parents had heard your family’s story when I was growing up, my life would be immensely different. You must keep sharing this. I know that if this would’ve changed the course of my life growing up, you are likely to change hundreds of lives in the future.

    You and your family will be in my thoughts daily.

    Warmly,

    Ryan
    Denver, CO

    Reply
  3. Megan Williams

    Dear Linda,

    You are exceptionally brave. Your family is brave. Ryan was brave. And while, yes… you made mistakes (don’t we all… something about casting a stone comes to mind), know that he was brave because you taught him that. There were good lessons you taught him too. You are not now, nor ever were, bad parents. Just parents who taught good lessons and bad ones. Most importantly, you learned from your own mistakes (which is more than many can say) and your surviving children will learn that important lesson from you. I do not understand how anyone can respond to your story with hate; but ultimately, that is their own lesson to learn. Perhaps your story will be a teaching tool in that lesson, perhaps not.

    Reply
  4. juliej1954

    Linda, I feel some of your pain as I too have lost my only child, and while it was due to illness and over 15 years ago, I feel guilty that I wasn’t able to save her. I made choices about her quality of life and that ended up shortening her life. As parents, we expect ourselves to be perfect when in reality all we can do is what we believe is best at the time. We are humans with flaws and sometimes they cause us the greatest of pains.

    I have learned since then that the most important lessons we learn in life are often the most costly to us. Tragically, yours is the highest price we can pay. I have often felt that way. But I’ve come to believe that God knew I needed to learn some very important things about life, and having my daughter and her shorter life was part of the process. I had a purpose I would never have found had I never gone through the entire experience of her life, including the tragedy, had everything ended up happily ever after.

    I still suffer her loss every day. I feel that indescribable pain every day. But it is tolerable now because I know now what and how my life’s purpose is. It sounds from your story you have found your purpose as well. You’ve learned the most difficult of lessons and it sounds like God has shown you your true purpose. Maybe He felt you needed to “get it” in order to achieve your highest purpose.

    Many people find it difficult to understand how I can still have faith in God when He allows these types of tragedies to happen. I tell them I’ve come to believe that not all people are intended to live long full lives. That they are given to us for a period of time to achieve a certain purpose and once achieved it is time for them to move on. Otherwise the life lesson would not be learned and the LGBTQ of this world would not have the amazing advocate they have in you. God knows how badly “the Church” needs to learn this all important lesson. Who better than you to teach it?!!

    I’ll pray for you, Linda, that your pain eases and that you may find some purpose in the very important work you are now doing. God bless you and your family and Ryan.

    Reply
  5. Mario

    Linda,

    I came across your article on HuffPost and I want to thank you for sharing your story. It’s not right that you’re being accosted for telling us about Ryan’s tragedy; unfortunately, the internet is full of sadists and people whose opinions are larger than their hearts.

    You deserve to forgive yourself because all of your actions were out of love. Perhaps they were also borne of fear, but only the selfless fear of losing your eldest son.

    The tragedy Ryan lived is far too common, but it didn’t play out because you failed him. Let’s be honest: church failed him, America failed him, even some of the scriptures failed him.

    You need to continue to share your story, to fight for the freedom, health, and sanity of LGBTQ youth, even in the face of cruel criticism. The mortal truth of your experience isn’t for liberals with little or no connection to conservative Christianity who find it all too easy to condemn you. It’s for the people who stumble across your story on the net and may not even comment; it’s for people who haven’t read Prayers for Bobby, who also fear “the gay lifestyle,” who want the best for their children but wouldn’t know what to do in the situation you faced in 2001.

    And it’s for Ryan, who can see from heaven how much his mother loved and always will live him.

    Reply
    1. Linda Robertson Post author

      You got it, Mario…it is for those families who have stumbled across our story a few months – or weeks – before their own child comes out. THOSE families make it worth it all. And I love what you said about it being for Ryan. Thank you.

      Reply
  6. Andrew

    Greetings Robertson family,

    I honestly don’t know where to begin to start…I came across this topic reading something off Huffington Post and as always I tend to get off topic and start reading things that really grab my attention. (I apologize in advance if I write too much, so much dawned on me here.) First off, I think it is so disrespectful with how people react negatively to your story and how they will take the first opportunity to say how wrong and bad someone is. I think I’ve learned being from the conservative side of things is we all make mistakes, we’re human and it’s in our nature to screw up from time to time. What matters most is we have a God that’s forgiving and shows unconditional love for us regardless of our past mistakes. He truly loves us because He breathed life into us and called us His own. What really scared me the most is how very much Ryan and I are alike, upbringings and so on. I’ve always had a deep spiritual connection with God and I think He’s been my rock throughout my struggles.

    I can’t help but feel that Ryan and I are alike in some ways. Ryan’s choices with turning to drugs, were the choices I almost made myself. I couldn’t find myself to do them because something was preventing me from doing so. I went through a time of depression and felt so much like an embarrassment to my family that I wasn’t like the other boys in my classroom. I couldn’t play sports nor did I have an interest in talking about them. I look back thinking that all the signs of my sexuality were there, I just never had the strength like Ryan did to admit it. As I read through some of the posts of your blog, I felt like they really helped me put things into perspective. I feel a great sadness for your loss, Ryan seems like he would be great to have in company as a friend. I get the impression he has a big heart for people. Occasionally, I think what if I would’ve ended my life and seeing how different things would’ve been without me being around…and I realize that God has a purpose for me, He still has plans for me to do something to help others. Being in my twenties now, I understand that everything has a reason. God works in mysterious ways and even when I feel I’ve fallen, He picks me up. Thank you for this helpful blog, for allowing me to say a few things and I absolutely wish more people would read this.

    Reply
  7. John clubb

    Your courage has touched me on more than one level. Your courage to share your story your courage to admit and truly be remorseful for your mistakes and most of all your courage to change your thinking. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you. May the Lord be gracious to you and give you peace.

    Reply
  8. Mary Ann Jacob

    What an incredible story of your journey. Your son would be so proud of the distance you have traveled. Spreading the word of your transformation will most certainly save other families the pain if discovery you have has to make. As we recover at Sandy Hook School from the trauma that visited us I took great comfort in your words. Peace

    Reply
  9. jen

    i see so many comments here and i didnt read them because i get the gist from your more recent huffington post article. i am so very sorry for your loss. i cannot imagine not having my son to hold on to. we do what we are taught and how would you know any different? God is good. that is for sure and i pray that you find healing. God is good. my son is 15 and came out to me two years ago. i look at him everyday and know for sure that there is a God, because when i see him, the only question i ask is, how could there NOT be a God. God is good. my prayers are with you and your family. without rest and without ceasing i will pray for healing for your family. God is always good.

    Reply
  10. tarra

    Thank you for this beautiful story.I to have a gay son and he was to a drug user and I am so proud of him for turning his life around and I understand how u felt when u found out your son was gay but I worked it out with my self real fast and just loved him I am so sorry for your loss ur story can help people don’t let the negative one take u down ..thank you

    Reply
  11. Jennifer

    It is my belief that we all make choices in life, hard ones, because our souls worked together before coming to earth to learn lessons from each other that help us grow and help others to grow and this was your relationship with your son, love and lessons, growth. You should not hate yourself or blame yourself. You were learning to strip away your old beliefs that conditioned you but you, through God’s grace {as hard as it is your son going missing helped you to see the like and wake up to reality} and your own inner work, you came around to know the truth which is when Jesus says to love unconditionally- he means it no matter what “rules” that old bible states. You listened to God and accepted your son. You made it! You endured the beginning of your journey and your challenge to overcome fear and old erroneous beliefs and you DID IT. You were successful, not failures. You embraced your son which is what God wanted from you. Maybe that was when your son’s role on earth ended and he is now moved on. But YOU are here to continue to fulfill your very important role in educating people on unconditional love. Please don’t hate yourselves; God does not want that for you no matter what other unenlightened people tell you. My heart is breaking for you and your loss but more because you are hating yourselves. So stop- become more aware- know you have what done God asked of you, and you are continuing to. Read about soul mates and soul contracts and try to heal your inner anguish; life happens for a reason, even the hard stuff. Continue to open minds and hearts.

    For your son, and you. I love you, and God loves you, no matter what you think right now. Hugs.

    Reply
  12. Lessa Joubert

    Linda,

    As a parent I read your story with both anger and incredible sadness. The fact that you’ve opened yourself up to the rage and insults of people who’ve lived the same struggles that your son did, and more, that you actively work to understand the emotions they need to express speaks deeply about the sincerity of your change of heart and your need to help other families avoid your tragedy. As the atheist daughter of a Southern Baptist minister, I agree that a lot of evil has been done in the name of religion. But religion isn’t going anywhere. People like you and the families joining with you are crucial in moving religion, and therefore the world, in a more caring, accepting, and loving direction. What you’re doing is important and I applaud you for having the strength to face all the consequences in order to be an agent for change. It honors your son in an extraordinary way and I hope it helps bring peace to your family.

    Reply
    1. Linda Robertson Post author

      Lessa, thank you for seeing that our hope is to BE agents of change speaking out from within a conservative church community.
      Your anger is extremely valid…I look back and am angry at myself, too.
      My best to you, Lessa…

      Reply
  13. Samantha Stone

    When I first came across your story I wasn’t sure what to expect. I first read the article about why you told your story so when I clicked the link here I was surprised. By the many hate-filled comments I saw, I thought you had disowned your son. What I found were loving parents who made some mistakes. Who in this world hasn’t made mistakes? I know I have. I know I have plenty more to make, but my mistakes, big or small, are mine. Just as yours are your own. We learn from them, teach from them, and should suffer judgement from noone. It is true that this turned fatal, but I do not think you should shoulder all the blame. You did what you thought was best and you were wrong, but do the people who introduced him to drugs not share blame? I don’t believe homosexuality is unnatural. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in being judgemental. I believe in being a good person, treating people with kindness, forgiveness, and not needing a religion to motivate me to be that way. That being said, I do not understand why people feel the need to attack you with such hate and bring your choice of faith under fire. We all live different lives and all have different faiths, but at the end we are all the same. We all have common ground. I am an atheist. You are evangelical. We are both human. We are both parents. We both make mistakes. I don’t know if this will mean anything to you, but I do not condemn you, judge you, or hate you. I see you as you are, human.

    Reply
  14. Mary

    Sorry Lady. Tell it to the “nicer” Christians at your new fellowship. If it hadn’t been YOUR son that was driven to misery and drug overdose by your ignorant bigotry and intolerance, you’d still be the same ignorant hateful person judging and feeling superior to gay people and their families. IF your son were straight or still alive and in the closet, you’d still be praying and hating and feeling oh so sorry for those poor sinners, wouldn’t you? Now that YOU are faced with the horror and grief of your son’s death, you have all the empathy in the world now, don’t you? You wouldn’t have cared so much about all the gay kids who are driven to despair and suicide by religious people just like you if your wretchedness didn’t hit home in a tragedy. Well save it. Too late.

    Reply
    1. Linda Robertson Post author

      Maybe you are right, Mary…maybe I still would be ignorant. I don’t honestly know.
      But now that I do know the truth, and I do care deeply, I am responsible to help others who still don’t.

      Reply
  15. Place Pseudonymn Here

    Hi Linda,
    I stumbled across your blog from the HuffPost article. I am straight and have several gay friends –a few of whom are Christians who have wrestled heavily with the conflict between being Christian and being gay. Some aren’t Christians (or I’m not sure if they are or aren’t), but are in committed relationships. There’s one lesbian couple I hang out with regularly and I really value their friendship (this may sound silly, but I lost my dog last year and then met this couple this year –they’ve picked me up several times to take me to their house so I can visit with their dogs for some dog therapy –and it’s meant SO much to me! As well as the evenings spent playing games and talking –they are amazing, loving people and I thank God for them!). I’ve been looking at ways I can love and support these dear friends in my life. I have spent hours now reading through your blog, through the resources (I have several added to my wish list on Amazon –I plan to begin with “Torn” as soon as I have the funds to buy it or can find it through the library’s digital collection).

    I want my gay friends to know that not all Christians hate them. That they are loved and that they matter. They matter an awful lot. It hurts me so much to see so much hate from people who claim to follow Jesus. Even if you feel conviction that something is wrong (even though I’m not really sure at this point after reading so much that it is wrong or a sin –still investigating and wrestling with that question trying to sort out truth from everything I’ve been taught and had accepted unquestioningly from church), I can’t reconcile the living, breathing, wonderful people I know and the hate I hear being taught and propelled along by certain groups (um, gay people aren’t the enemy –the real enemy is injustice, inequality, people in need of food, shelter, clothing, etc. –take care of the orphans, the widows, and the strangers–make sure people with disabilities have equal access in our society and equal status (I am a person with a disability–part of a minority group in the U.S. still fighting for basic civil rights 24 years after the passage of the ADA) –if even half the energy spent combating the “gay problem” was spent on those things, our country and our world would be a LOT different and a LOT better!)

    Anyway, I see my gay friends as people first –their sexuality is such a small part of who they are as people. I don’t know why that is so much a focus to so many. I just see my friends –the people I love and care about. And I want to support them and show love the best I can in the face of a Christian subculture that teaches that they are somehow less than any other human being (which I just don’t understand). I hope to arrive at a better understanding of my friends and their experiences.

    Thank you for providing a safe place to talk. I could never post something like this on my Facebook wall –I have too many evangelical, VERY conservative friends (I live in the Bible Belt in a red state) and family who would jump all over me for even thinking about loving and supporting my gay friends. And that saddens me greatly.

    I really wish I could be more openly supportive of my friends –other than telling them in private that I am. I hate having to hide it from most people out of fear of being cast out from my “Christian circle”. I’m trying to figure out concrete, meaningful ways to show my support and love.

    Reply
    1. Linda Robertson Post author

      You have done the thing that many straight, conservative Christians don’t do, unless they have to…you have LISTENED. And you have LOVED…and we can’t have relationships with people without being changed. What God is doing in you, through your friends, is beautiful. You give me hope that the next generation – even in a red state in the Bible Belt – is going to change the world.

      Reply
  16. N. Scott Axton

    Christian gay guy here. The pain of your heartbreak and the passion you have to show love reads loud and clear. Forgive those whose pain and personal path keeps them from being able to see it. My prayers for you would be to find peace that transcends and strength to keep putting your story out there as a means of hope and reconciliation.
    Love,
    Scott

    Reply
  17. Sue

    What a deplorable waste of a beautiful life. Just because ‘it says so in the bible’

    This must be the saddest example of misguidedness I have ever witnessed

    Poor child. And I also pity the rest of your children.

    Reply
    1. Linda Robertson Post author

      Sue, it IS a horrible example of misguidedness. I agree with you.
      But Ryan died in the arms of his father, with his three siblings and me surrounding him. And HE KNEW he was loved like crazy. And so do our other kids, who are all wonderful young adults.
      My best to you, Sue.

      Reply
  18. Mary

    i was moved by your post and blogs. I too had a gay son he died of cancer 7 years ago. I always knew and celebrated the way he was born. No one is right in beating you up. We all make mistakes as parents…my son was a devoted Christian I fall into spiritual not religious
    That being said my son made his death beautiful in his steadfast belief in Christ. There is no way to take your pain away but don’t let anyone tell you you did not live your boy!! That is clear. Thank you for reminding everyone to be human is about making mistakes and learning. That is how we all grow not by treating each other apart. My heart sends comfort to you no matter how we may lose our Children we know that we lived them perfectly imperfect

    Reply
  19. Leslie Gallagher

    LInda–
    I am a mother of 5 children, ages 19 down to 7, and I can’t thank you enough for your amazingly brave blog postings. I came upon your latest post last night, and I stayed up late reading your amazing story. Honestly, I was up all night thinking of you. I wrote about you, and Ryan’s story, in my blog, mylittlebitsofstring@blogspot.com. I don’t normally do that, but your story really moved me.

    I will pray for you and Ryan, and for your healing. Anyone who could criticize you after reading your words is not worth your time/life energy. It is clear to me that for all those years after Ryan first confided in you, you did the best you could do to love Ryan as best you could at that time, and that you eventually saw a different way. You cannot be criticized for that. Ryan obviously loved you and your husband so much–his letter to his father is a testament to that unbelievable love.

    You cannot blame yourself. You, your husband, Ryan….you are just fallible human beings. You all did the best you could, under the circumstances. You were so blessed to have him in your lives, and I believe you will see him again, and that his life, and his passing, was something really exceptional–just look at these hundreds of responses you have received. Surely, you have emboldened people to acknowledge themselves, and parents to learn to accept their children…just because they breathe. What a powerful message. I know you have changed the way I will parent in the future. I have told my children all today “I love you just because you breathe.” They all looked at me for a minute, and I explained, “I just love you. No conditions, no matter what. I will love you just because you breathe.”

    Thank you for teaching me that lesson. I haven’t needed it yet with my own children, but if I do, I thank you for letting me know your story, and for growing from it.

    Reply
  20. Ryan

    I came across your story today. By the time I had finished reading, tears were streaming from my eyes.
    My parents had a difficult time coming to terms with my sexuality because of their faith. It has been 9 years since I came out to them, and now they welcome my fiancé into the family as their newest son. My heart breaks for you that you do not have the same opportunity with your son. I am so sorry for your loss.
    I believe that he is looking on you with pride and love. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope that you will continue to share your story and help to change minds and hearts. The world needs more love like that.

    Reply
  21. Beth Goard Agen

    Thank you for sharing the story of Ryan and your family. We all have so much to learn about really showing Jesus’ love for each other. Sometimes the hardest ones to love are the ones in our own homes. Thank you for all who will learn for your story. May God bless you all.

    Reply
  22. Anonymous

    I don’t think you can know for certain your story would have ended differently even if you had been perfectly supportive that Ryan was gay. Substance abuse occurs at a higher rate in the gay population in general whether or not their families are perfectly supportive, and studies have shown that even countries like Denmark where homosexuality and gay marriage have been accepted widely for a number of years, the suicide rate among gays is just as high as it is here.

    Reply
  23. Kristen

    So sad that people must be so cruel when you are sharing your story in the hopes that your mistakes can open others’ eyes. Much love, strength, and best wishes to you and your family. I’m sure Ryan is so proud…

    Reply
  24. Stephanie Sphar

    Linda,

    My heart aches for you. I can’t imagine losing my son. He is also gay, and came out at a young age, much like your beloved Ryan. Thank you for sharing your story. It puts life into perspective. I just rushed into my son’s room, my 16 year old “little” boy, tears in my eyes and picked up his big, heavy torso, and cried into his hair. As always, he reached up, sleepily as I woke him, and just said “love you mom. It’s okay”….not knowing what I was crying about.

    Thank you so much for your story and know that here in Utah, my family’s prayers and live are with you.

    Stephanie

    Reply

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