For Whom the Bells Toll

The keeper of the garden…

We celebrated the life of my dear friend John  at the home that he and Wayne, his partner of almost thirty-two years, shared for twenty of those years.  The day was sunny  and clear, and a full-on ninety-degree Alabama hot, the wonderfully eclectic house filled to capacity with family and friends, good food, laughter, tears, and so many memories. The large crowd reflected a diverse group of people- young, old, wealthy, poor, gay, straight- all coming together to show their love for Wayne and John. 

Wayne decided that he wanted to have some words spoken in his beautiful garden before people retired to the house to eat and tell stories about John. It was the perfect place, truly a little slice of Heaven here in Southside that Wayne has lovingly cultivated over the years. Wayne asked Darla and Bev, his oldest friends and two of my dearest friends, and I to be in charge. Because of the heat and in deference to the older members of those gathered, we decided to keep things pretty brief; Bev would speak first, then Darla, then Wayne, and I would finish with a few words, ending with a special poem that I had chosen. Bev did such a beautiful job, speaking so eloquently about Wayne being such a perfect example of ‘In sickness and in health.”  John dealt with the ravages of diabetes for years, never complaining, and Wayne cared for him with love and devotion, through thick and through thin. I have never known a more undeniably devoted couple. 

Just as Wayne concluded his final words, the bells of St. George’s began to peal loudly. The goosebumps spread over my body and I exchanged knowing looks with Wayne, Bev, and Darla. Those same church bells had rung as we stood around John’s body holding hands before they took him away, just as our friend Dolly had concluded a spoken prayer. John was with us- we felt him so strongly. 

Love through the years…

I was determined to stay strong for Wayne and not fall apart. Wayne was trying so hard to be brave as he faced the loss of his mate, but I knew the tears were right beneath the surface. He has such a soft and gentle heart, especially where John is concerned.  I was doing well until Wayne began to choke up as he talked about his love of John and the challenges and prejudice they faced over the years as a committed gay couple. Wayne spoke from the heart, simply, beautifully, with love and gratitude. I felt my throat tighten, and the tears begin to well up in my eyes. I can’t begin to comprehend the magnitude of the loss of the love of your life. I will always hold Dan a little tighter now. 

With Wayne….

I spoke about family not just being blood, but also those friends that are always there for us, no matter what time the phone rings, no matter what happens, no matter what. I told the group about Wayne and John’s kindness to my mother, and how they were always doing their best to help people and animals, doing their best to be good people every single day that I have known them. I finished by reading the following:

‘We Remember Them’

At the rising of the sun and at its going down,

We remember them.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of Winter,

We remember them.

At the opening of buds and in the rebirth of Spring,

We remember them.

At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of Summer,

We remember them.

At the rustling of leaves and the beauty of Autumn,
We remember them.

At the beginning of the year and when it ends,

We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live;

for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength,

We remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart,

We remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share,

We remember them.

When we have decisions that are difficult to make,

We remember them.

When we have achievements that are based on theirs,

We remember them.

As long as we live, they too shall live,

for they are a part of us, as we remember them.

We will remember you, John; your sense of humor and your wonderfully mischievous talent for pulling off pranks, your love of animals and kindness to others, your intelligence and curiosity, your loyalty, your mad cookie-baking skills, your huge heart, and your undying love of Wayne. We will remember. 


I have created a GoFundMe page, ‘Little John, Big Heart’ to help Wayne with the costs associated with John’s final arrangements, medical bills, and lost wages from his time taking care of John. If you are so moved, please consider donating or just sharing the page. Thank you so much.

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