jean cook, in memorium

My grandmother's funeral is today, and of course what can you possibly say about a person who -- until late Monday afternoon -- has always been a part of the world while you were alive within it? The earliest memory I have that can be attached to a specific period in time is of staying with Grandma Cook while my mother was in labor for the birth of my brother, Brian. I was just shy of three years old. 

So there are any number of stories I could tell about my growing up in relationship to her, grandmother and granddaughter, two people who didn't always agree. The story I want to share today, though, is one that can be told in her own words. For, like a good historian and archivist, I saved the document (in an archival box!) and was able to locate it on Friday as Hanna and I were packing to leave on this journey.

This is the letter my grandmother wrote me when she learned that Hanna and I were together as a couple -- the event that was, for most people in my life, my coming out moment as a person with bisexual desires. Reading it over, my political-critical self notices limitations, but I will refrain in the here and now from pointing them out. What I hope comes through in this very human document is its author's overwhelming impulse to "only connect."

 9 Nov. 2009

Dear Anna, 

It was so very nice to see you on your visit home. I know there were many people to see in your short time. Also, perhaps you caught up on a little needed rest. That is what 'coming home' is all about once you have left.

On Sat. evening your Mom and Dad shared with me your loving relationship with Hannah [sic]. There are just a few things I want to share with and about you.

First of all, Anna, there is no more beautiful relationship in life than when two people fall in love. I am so happy that you have found that love. Your grandfather believed firmly that relationship is the most important aspect in life. It sometimes means putting aside your morality code or other norms society has established for itself.

Anna, you have always been a person who has challenged some of life's "norms." No doubt sometimes it was just a reaction but perhaps other times with thoughtful research and decision making. To not live in denial of your sexual orientation has been an admirable step in knowing just who you are. You come from a family that has always known inclusiveness in whatever form it make take. Know that you are surrounded with love and acceptance for all that you are and will still become.

I don't know what your relationship with God is - that is between you and God. However, I truly believe that at times God does choose certain individuals to [bear crosses?] in our society -- whether it be for peace and justice, sexual discrimination or whatever the societal cause may be. You have shown such strength in accepting the recognition of who and what you are that I know you will be a [wholesome?] advocate of others less confident than yourself.

Remember always that behind you is a loving, supportive family. We trust that your relationship with Hannah will fill the deep love in your heart.

Your grandmother who loves you always


  1. She sounds amazing. Hope the funeral went smoothly and all the best for the coming weeks and months.

  2. I teared up a little reading this. I'll always remember the way she went so out of her way to make sure I felt like part of the family the Christmas I spent with you guys. She was such a wonderful, caring, person.