“Lauree knew how to tease me without my being offended. And there was something about the way she would smile that, you know, I can still see very vividly. She was the first person I really, truly loved. But I grew up in the 40s, in a small, rural community. There were certainly no role models of what it means to love someone of the same sex. So, I didn’t know how to understand that.
My high school sweetheart, he proposed to me. And I thought at that time, that’s what a woman did, she got married. And it didn’t take me very long to realize that I’d made a mistake. So he and I decided to get a divorce.
During all of this time Lauree and I had stayed in touch. I knew that I loved her deeply. She said, “Well I have very strong feelings for you, too, but most of all, I want to have children.”
She met a man who had asked her to marry him. Then she got pregnant, and she said, ”If it’s a little girl, I’m going to name her after you.” Well, it turned out it was a little boy, and I was relieved. It really would have been excruciatingly painful if she had had a little girl named after me.
Somewhere along the way she said, “If I outlive my husband and you don’t have a partner, perhaps we can grow old together.” And somehow that made it alright.
But then, Lauree got cancer. And she didn’t live very long. And I didn’t get to see her again.
It didn’t hit me so much until I turned 60 and I began to really think about old age. And this was the time that Lauree and I were gonna have. And it didn’t happen.
There are certain kinds of love that never die. But I don’t regret at all our time together. It is where I learned that I could love and I could be loved in that complete sense of the word.
One evening in the fall of 2015, I was driving home from school and listening to NPR’s StoryCorps. A woman named Glenda began telling the story of how she and Lauree met at a time in American history when the love of two people of the same sex was not accepted by society. As the story unraveled, I genuinely felt Glenda’s love for Lauree. Glenda reveals that she and Lauree never got to have their happily ever after because Lauree was taken by cancer. Most stories would focus on that grief; however, Glenda tells, “I don’t regret at all the time we shared. It is where I learned to love and to be loved.” The power of that story brought me to tears—thank God it was dark.
I immediately started setting the transcription of her story to music. When I called Glenda to ask her permission, she graciously said yes. I said, “Thank you so much, because I already wrote it!” From that moment, Glenda and I have shared a great bond of friendship. After hearing its performance at the GALA Chorus Festival in Denver in 2016, Glenda gave me a huge hug and whispered in my ear, “Thank you. You brought Lauree back to me.”
A recording of this piece by GALA Choruses can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyRJdvClmVg.