The Food of Love

by Bensiamin

Chapter 11

We got home late Sunday afternoon, and spent the time getting Will settled in our guest room. There was no light talk or banter. Everyone understood we were on the back side of a tragedy, and when we'd talked about him coming to stay with us for a while on the drive home, he didn't ask why, let alone argue, he just acquiesced. We unpacked his clothing, and Jackson was helping him put it away in the dresser and closet. Then we made the bed and took him along with us to the kitchen where he sat and watched us prepare supper.

The only conversation was what we initiated. It turned out that I hadn't been far off when I told his parents that he was shattered. The light was gone from his eyes, he only responded when asked, he almost acted like a zombie.

When we went in the living room, Jackson put on Fleetwood Mac's Rumors , and then later put on Tom Petty's first album. I knew these were high on Will's favorites list, so didn't say anything. Will just sat there, presumably listening. Eventually he started yawning, and Jackson asked if he wanted to go to bed. He nodded, and Jackson walked him down to his room and showed him the bathroom. He came back about ten minutes later.

"He's freaked. I don't know if it's just that he's really scared, or shattered, like you said earlier, or if it's because he's in the room he was in before with Kevin, but I'm not letting him sleep alone. Is that Okay with you? I just know I need to be there with him. To hold him so he knows he's not alone and it's alright."

I was amazed and impressed. "You do what you need to do. The whole point of this is to do what's best for Will. I trust you implicitly. Let's talk for a minute about our plans for tomorrow, and then when you go to join Will, I'll call his parents to assure them things are off to a good start."

He sat down next to me and took my hand. "How do you think we should start?"

I had to admit I didn't have a plan and said so. "I guess I'm thinking we just be here for him, and don't pressure him, and try to help him work through the trauma and the emotions."

I felt him lean over and he tipped his head up and kissed the top of my neck, below by jaw. "Can I make a suggestion? I mean I'm not trying to be an amateur psychologist or anything, but I have an idea."

"What's that? I'm open to any suggestions. Remember, I'm not a psychologist, just a minister that's done a bunch of counseling. You know Will better than anyone. What are you thinking?"

"Well, it's like he's kind of shutdown emotionally, right? Like a zombie or an automaton or something. I think we need to try and get him back in touch with his feelings. He's a musician. He feels and lives music. I'm thinking we try to get him back in touch with his feelings through the music."

I kissed his forehead. "Sounds good. I'm guessing, knowing you, that you've already thought about a lot more than just that. Fill me in."

"I love you, just so you know. There's more. First, there's the music part, the emotions and feeling that are generated by the music itself. There's also the lyrics, the message in the song. I'm not talking about most of them, the 'I lost my girlfriend' type or anything like that. I told you I listened to all those Moody Blues albums a few times and was amazed at some of the songs because of what they were about—important things in life, like friendship, the hard things that happen and why, as well as lots of love songs. But the love songs aren't what I'm talking about. There's a handful that I think would work. What I'm thinking is that we have a session each day. We listen to the song, then we read the lyrics together, then we listen to the song again, and then we all talk about it."

"I like the idea of a music therapy approach, especially for Will. I'm only familiar with it for end of life patients, to soothe them. It might work. Give me an example of what you're thinking."

"Okay. The first one would be Remember Me (My Friend) which is about friendship, and not forgetting we're friends because we're the most important people in the world to each other. He's lost touch with that truth. And we're all worried he could be thinking about suicide too. So, if we can get him back in touch with the fact that he has friends and he's a friend too, our most important friend in the world, maybe that's a start. Like a light at the end of the tunnel."

"I like it, and I like the structured routine idea. We don't want him to think we've hauled him off to therapy camp or anything, but even though we didn't talk about it this evening, I think we need to establish some ground rules. Some of it I'm thinking of because of our discussions about Ordinary People and Fowler's work on faith—the most basic behavioral kind of faith."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning that we have a talk over breakfast that he's now part of this family and this home. And there's a routine, and he's part of that too. We expect him to be at breakfast, even if he says nothing. That means he has to plan to get up and dress and stuff first. We expect him to be at lunch and dinner too. Sometimes we'll do something together like go to a movie, and we expect him to be part of that. No staying in your room, lying in bed crying and feeling sorry for yourself. Does that make sense?"

"For sure. I was thinking the same kind of things."

"Then we add another piece to the formula which is that we have a music session each day. Let's not call it music therapy, just a music discussion and you can lead it off about introducing him to songs he may not know, or if he does know them, then reintroducing them to him because the message is important, and we're going to listen and then discuss the message. How's that sound? Is that the kind of thing you had in mind?"

"Absolutely. Do you think it will work?"

"I have no idea. It has as good a chance of working as anything else. In fact, it probably has a better chance because he's a musician and we're all good enough friends we can talk about anything."

"I love you, David. Thanks"

"Sleep tight, Lover Boy. We'll start in the morning." Jackson headed towards Will's room and I headed for the phone.


Over breakfast we did just that. Jackson woke him up and got him moving to start the day and ready for breakfast. After they came in the kitchen, he sat Will down at the table and poured them both a cup of coffee while I prepared breakfast. When the opening came, I asked Will if he had a problem with us making him have breakfast with us. He shook his head and said, "No." Not really any emotion.

"Good. We're making you have breakfast because you're part of this home now. We have some basic routines and ground rules. They apply to you now because you're living here. Are you good with that?"

I wanted to see a little questioning look on his face or in his eyes, but it wasn't there. He just nodded. Jackson put a bowl of granola with sliced bananas in front of him.

I went on, "Good. This isn't meant to be a big deal, and it's not like being in jail or anything like that, Okay. You're our best friend, and you're living with us, so we're all in this together. We have meals together, so that means you have to get up early enough to do your morning routine before you join us for breakfast. If you have trouble waking up, let us know and one of us will wake you. Either way, we'll check to make sure you're up so you can join us for breakfast. It's Christmas break for the next two weeks, and we'll be here for all meals. That means we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. We eat it together. It's part of being in this family. Are you Okay with that?"

He nodded again, still showing no emotion.

Jackson very lightly punched his shoulder.

"Hey, Bro, you know David's a great cook, don't you? This'll be way better food than down at school."

He looked at Jackson and smiled weakly. Is this what progress looks like?

"I know, I remember David cooking some good meals. You help too, right?"

Jackson nodded, "and you might too."

Will was quiet. Picking at his cereal, eating a few pieces of banana, then a spoonful or two of the granola.

"Will, so we have three meals a day and you're part of that program. You need to plan for that, Okay? And we may do something, like go to a movie or whatever, and you're part of that with us, Okay?"

He was nodding in answer to the questions. Jackson leaned over and said, "Eat up, Will, the granola is good for you." He ate a few more bites, but didn't finish it.

"We're also going to do one other thing every day. We're going to have a music discussion session after breakfast. We're going to start today. It'll be a lot like the book discussion sessions that Jackson and I have been having this summer that he may have told you about. We'll listen to a song and talk about the song and about the lyrics. Okay?"

He nodded. There was no pushback, but I wasn't sure he was understanding the significance either.

"Okay, let's wash the dishes and we'll go get started."

We cleared the table and washed the dishes, Jackson re-filled everyone's coffee cup, and we went into the living room. Thinking about how this might work best, I sat in one of the armchairs at the end of the couch and let them take the couch. Will sat down, his hands together on his knees, expressionless.

"Will, I'm going to let Jackson do the music part, but I'll just say that I've got a much bigger collection of records than I probably should have, and he's spent a lot of time this summer listening to some of them, kind of finding his way to the gems in there. I think he wants to share some of those with you."

I gave Jackson the high sign, and he walked around the coffee table and knelt down in front of Will. They looked at each other, and Jackson started. "So, after we organized David's albums when we moved in the summer, I realized there were all these albums I'd heard of but had never listened to, and even more that I'd never even heard of. A bunch of them were by the Moody Blues, and when David's brother and sister-in-law were here, we started playing them because Jane's a big fan. Like she's gone to a bunch of Moody Blues concerts back east. I really liked them, the music and the lyrics."

He paused, and Will had been looking at him while he talked, but was still expressionless. Jackson reached out and took his hands and said, "I know you know some of the songs, but I didn't, and I was really amazed by a lot of them, and a few of them made me think of you."

He paused again. It seemed like something registered with Will, but I wasn't sure. Jackson went on. "I'm going to say that again, Will. A few of them made me think of you. We're going to play those songs and talk about them. The first one is about a true friend."

With that he walked to the turntable and lowered the tone arm on the track, came back and sat down next to Will holding the album sleeve and pointing at the lyrics. They sat side by side reading the lyrics as Remember Me (My Friend) started to play.

You don't need to ask me if I'll be your friend
I am
I am
You don't need to ask me if I'm sure my friend
I am

I am your friend
You must remember me
I'm the one who saw through the world's disguise
Took away its cloak and I made it hide
From me
Remember me?

Walking on this earth finding you
You, you
Walking on this earth finding you
You, you
What can I say
You don't need to find the words to say what's on your mind

If you need a reason to begin again
I am
I am
You will find an answer at your journey's end
I am
Waiting there my friend
You must remember me
I'm the one who knew you when
I'm the one you call your friend
Feel free
Remember me

Walking on this earth finding you
You, you
Walking on this earth finding you
You, you
What can I say
You don't need to find the words to say what's on your mind

Walking on this earth finding you
You, you
Walking on this earth finding you
You, you
What can I say
You don't need to find the words to say what's on your mind
Walking on this earth finding you
You, you
Walking on this earth finding you
You, you

Walking on this earth finding you
You, you
You, you
You, you
You, you

As it got to the last line, Jackson looked at me, clearly wanting me to lift the tone arm and stop the music which I did. Will was pensive. He'd looked away from the lyrics, out the living room window where it was gray and raining lightly.

"Will, would you prefer if we start talking about the lyrics, or do you want to?"

He looked at me, not saying anything. "Okay, we'll start, how's that?"

He nodded ever so slightly, and Jackson hugged him.

"Here's what I'm going to do. Just list some of the phrases that struck me in the song, and then we can talk about them."

I listed off six.

You don't need to ask me if I'll be your friend
I am your friend You must remember me
I'm the one who saw through the world's disguise
If you need a reason to begin again, I am
Walking on this earth finding you, you, you
You don't need to find the words to say what's on your mind

"Jackson, are you good talking about the first one?"

He nodded, pulling Will tighter with the arm around his shoulder. "That one's easy. You're my best friend, the one who accepted me back with no questions asked when I went through my shit. I'll always be your friend, you don't need to ask, or even worry about it. Ever."

Will was still sitting quietly and unemotionally. I could see the emotion on Jackson's face and see he was on the edge of tears. I took the second one.

"Will, the next one is talking about being your friend and you must remember me. You need to understand two things. The first part is definitive. I am your friend . There's no doubt there. It's an absolute. It will always be, and it goes for me just like it does for Jackson. The second part is a declarative statement: you must remember me . I don't know why the lyricist wrote it that way, but for us it means something that's going to be difficult to say, but you have to hear it. One of the major things about suicide is people get caught up in their despair and depression and themselves, and they forget about everyone else. We want you to never forget, not just that we're your friends, but you have to remember that, you have to remember us, as in never forget. There's two sides to this deal. You and us. We're in it together, this friendship doesn't work, it doesn't exist without both sides. Without you and us. You don't have to say anything. Just know that."

This was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, because everything I'd just said was true and I realized Will really was one of my best friends…one of my few real friends. This wasn't an academic exercise, this was real, we were fighting for him and his friendship.

I cleared my throat and went on. "The third line is I'm the one who saw through the world's disguise."

I nodded at Jackson. Smart boy, he tried to lighten it up. "This one's easy, because I was the one who saw through the world's disguise and saw you were bi and liked guys too, and told you that was Okay. Never forget that, Will. It's Okay. What happened was horrible, but you're Okay. You're bi and you're a great person. Did you hear the line about 'took away it's cloak and made it hide'? I think it's also about making the world hide from you and not the other way round; once you see through what you're 'supposed' to be and become who you are, the world has to hide from you and not the other way round – because it has no hold over you and you control it. The power is with you."

Will was still staring out the window, but I thought I could see little flicks of the small muscles around his eyes. Maybe I was seeing what I hoped I'd see.

"The next two kind of go together, If you need a reason to begin again, I am and Walking on this earth finding you, you, you. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that you're our best friend. You're coming back from something terrible, and we hope we can be your reason to start again. I know you're Jackson's best friend. But you know what I realized in the last twenty minutes? In this life I have one boyfriend, one brother, Gary and Lois, and the next closest person to me is you. That's because we're good friends and you're my boyfriend's best friend. For both of us that means among the best things that resulted from our being born, of walking on this earth, was getting to know you."

I had to pause. I was choking up. Jackson was smiling at me, being encouraging.

"Will, here's the last line, then we're going to play the song again. You don't need to find the words to say what's on your mind." I nodded at Jackson. This one was his.

He hugged Will and pulled him close and kissed the side of his head. "This one's easy too. We know you're going through hell right now. What happened to you shouldn't happen to anyone. Never. Ever. No one. You're here with us, and that's enough. We love you and we'll help you however we can. We'll hold you and hug you and love you. You don't have to say a thing. Okay? We know you're working through the worst shit there is to deal with. Just don't feel you have to say anything, to explain it or anything like that till you're ready, Okay."

He stopped and we were quiet. Then he hugged Will again and kissed the side of his head and said, "I love you, man. I love you so much. Just be here with us, Okay?"

He looked at me and nodded, and I stood up to re-play the song. Jackson released the hug, and they sat side by side, both of them with their hands together, resting on their knees. Jackson looked at me hopefully, then looked down at the floor. Will kept staring out the window.

When the song got to walking on this earth and finding you , I thought I could see a tear in his eyes. I might have been mistaken, but I know I saw the muscles around his eyes twitch, and I knew he was feeling something. Even if he wasn't or couldn't say what he was feeling, he was feeling.

Listen to the YouTube video of the Moody Blues singing Remember Me (My Friend) originally released on the Blue Jays album

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvF-5RhlL6o


We hung around the house that morning, and in the afternoon, we made him rake leaves with us in the back yard. Then we put on heavier clothing and rain gear and walked down to Oaks Bottom Park and strolled the southern trails, and really enjoyed walking along the river. When we got back, we all sat in the living room, Jackson next to Will on the couch. He put his arm around Will's shoulder and asked simply, "Will, what are you feeling?"

Will was quiet.

Jackson went on, "Can you remember the song we played this morning?"

Will nodded. He was staring out the window again.

"What do you remember from it."

"That you guys say I matter."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because you said it matters that you walked on this earth and found me."

Jackson glanced at me and I smiled, meaning, 'a sign of hope.'

We had a quiet supper, then came back in the living room and listened to some music. There wasn't much conversation. But we'd established the pattern for the coming days.

While Will was getting ready for bed I told Jackson I was no psychologist, but I was impressed with the approach he'd suggested.

"I learned more than I thought I would from reading Ordinary People ." He smiled and hugged me, and said "I'm going to sleep with Will again, he still feels really alone."

I nodded and kissed his forehead. "You're the best, just in case you haven't been told that recently."

When I got into bed, I reflected on our first music session, even more convinced that it could work, even if I didn't know for sure what would.


Tuesday for breakfast I made pancakes and we had some sausage links that Jackson fried. Will haltingly ate one pancake and one sausage link. The conversation was minimal. After breakfast, it took no coaxing, we just, as if by mutual agreement, moved into the living room and assumed our positions.

Jackson had already cued up his chosen song, and as Will and I sat down, he lowered the tone arm. He sat down next to Will with the album sleeve open, so the lyrics were in front of them, and the brass and percussion introduction to Question began to play with a fanfare. He'd prepped me that we were addressing some of the big problems in life, and the line about losing your love, questions that Will had to be struggling with.

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war?
'Cause when we stop and look around us
There is nothing that we need
In a world of persecution
That is burning in its greed

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door?
Because the truth is hard to swallow
That's what the war of love is for

It's not the way that you say it
When you do those things to me
It's more the way that you mean it
When you tell me what will be
And when you stop and think about it
You won't believe it's true
That all the love you've been giving
Has all been meant for you

I'm looking for someone to change my life
I'm looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it's done to me
To lose the love I knew
Could safely lead me through

Between the silence of the mountains
And the crashing of the sea
There lies a land I once lived in
And she's waiting there for me
But in the grey of the morning
My mind becomes confused
Between the dead and the sleeping
And the road that I must choose

I'm looking for someone to change my life
I'm looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it's done to me
To lose the love I knew
Could safely lead me to
The land that I once knew
To learn as we grow old
The secrets of our soul
It's not the way that you say it when you do those things to me
It's more the way you really mean it when you tell me what will be

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war?
When we stop and look around us
There is nothing that we need
In a world of persecution
That is burning in its greed

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door?

I raised the tone arm, then sat down and said, "so here are the phrases that jump out of that song to me."

Why do we never get an answer, When we're knocking at the door
About hate and death and war… In a world of persecution
Because the truth is hard to swallow, That's what the war of love is for
That all the love you've been giving, Has all been meant for you
I'm looking for someone to change my life, I'm looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it's done to me, To lose the love I knew

Jackson had slid up next to Will, and had his arm around his shoulder in a loving and protective hug. Yesterday had been emotional because it focused on our friendship, and I knew this would be more difficult because it was in many ways about the problem itself.

"Will, I don't know what the Moody Blues had in mind when they wrote this song, but it speaks to the problems that seemed to be facing the planet in 1970, and a lost love. The opening line, Why do we never get an answer, When we're knocking at the door, has to say what you're struggling with, the question why? As in, why did this happen? Why did this happen to Kevin? Why did this happen to me?"

He was staring out the front window again, looking at the gray skies.

"I don't know the answer to that question, but one of the most important things I know is that there are some questions to which there are no answers. There may never be a satisfactory answer to that question. Kevin was troubled by many things, and why he chose to leave and not deal with them is a question we can't answer. Look at the next line, about hate and death and war… In a world of persecution, that's the world we live in. Bad things happen. Horrible things happen. Sometimes there's no answer as to why. We also live in a world with a lot of persecution. I hope you can understand that if there was no persecution, and now I'm talking about being gay, this almost certainly wouldn't have happened."

That was a heavy message to deliver, and we were quiet for a minute. I nodded at Jackson, and he began, "Will, we're both kids, this shit shouldn't happen to us. But it does. Shit happened to me, and worse shit happened to you. That's something we just have to accept. Why? Because it's the way it is, but also, and maybe most importantly, because it's not the way it has to be. Listen to the next lines, B ecause the truth is hard to swallow, That's what the war of love is for…That all the love you've been giving Has all been meant for you. The truth is hard to swallow because sometimes it's hard. Really hard! But don't forget the war of love. Love will prevail. We believe that. I believe that. Did you hear what they said about 'all the love you've been giving?' That's you. You've been giving love all your life. That's the kind of guy you are. Kevin had a hard time with love, he had a hard time accepting it. You're naturally a loving person, that's who you are, no matter what happened to you."

I felt for Jackson. These were really hard things to have to say to your best friend. But they had to be said. I took over.

"The next lines will be really hard, Will. But they're true, and you need to be able to get your head and your heart around them. I'm looking for someone to change my life, I'm looking for a miracle in my life…And if you could see what it's done to me…To lose the love I knew. You lost the love you knew, your first love. I can't think of many things worse than that. But the fact is that life goes on, and maybe what you need now is that miracle in your life. We're not miracle workers. If we were, we'd do it. But you have to accept that your life isn't over, that there's hope, as bad as it feels right now. Just grab onto the notion that you have friends and that there will be someone to change your life. We'll do everything we can for you, but that's not the thing we're talking about. We're talking about being able to heal your broken heart and someone else coming into your life that will fill it like it was meant to be filled."

Jackson was holding Will to him, hugging him fiercely. I noticed Will was looking down at his hands, instead of out the window. I got up and put the song on again. It was all I could do not to cry, and I could see Jackson struggling with his emotions too.

When it was over, I waited a minute before I said, "Will, is there anything you want to talk about, any questions after hearing that song?" He was quiet for quite a while, then shook his head. His expression was flat, but he shook his head. He was hearing the question and responding.

Listen to the YouTube video of the Moody Blues play Question from the album A Question of Balance

https://youtu.be/qxOAhsngMyc

I noticed he ate more at lunch, and that afternoon we all got in the BMW and drove downtown to look at Christmas decorations, and we walked along the esplanade beside the Willamette River between the bridges that give Portland its nickname of "Bridge City."

After we got home, we sat in the living room and Jackson asked Will how he was feeling. He shrugged his shoulders. Jackson put his arm around Will's shoulders and pulled him tight. "Will, we're your friends. What are you feeling? Can you tell us?"

He kept staring out the window, but finally he said, "I feel like I lost the love I knew."

Jackson leaned his head against Will's and said softly, "I know, man, I know. What else?"

"I don't know why. That's my question. Why did it have to happen?"

"That's one of the questions we may never be able to answer," I said softly. "Can you tell us how you feel talking about this?"

"Empty."

Jackson hugged him again. "Empty might not be a good feeling right now, but guess what? With what you've been dealing with, it's a better thing than full of bad thoughts. I think empty is Okay if it means you've dumped the bad stuff and you can refill with the good stuff. With positive thoughts and love. We can put love in there. We can fill you up. Are you hearing me?"

He nodded his head but was still expressionless. After we ate dinner, I told Will we needed to call home and asked him if he was up to talking to his parents for a few minutes. He didn't look happy about it, and Jackson put his arm around his shoulder and said softly, "Come on, Bro. They love you. Just say Hi." He did, and while it was a short call, it was a sweet one, and I was able to tell them he was eating again, and we planned they would join us for Christmas in the afternoon of the 25th.

We weren't getting enough feedback to know if our approach was working but we both knew that if it was, or at least if it was having an impact, the message in Question would have been pretty heavy and needed to be balanced by something softer.

Wednesday morning after Jackson put down Will's coffee, he said, with a big smile, "Decision time, Bro." When Will looked up he said, "Over easy or scrambled?"

Will paused, then said, "Scrambled." Then a few seconds later he added, "Please." When we were fixing breakfast Jackson said to me, "this song's about friendship again."

We cleaned up and put the dishes away, then moved into the living room. Will sat in his usual place, staring out the window, his hands clasped on his knees.

Jackson had cued up the record, and knelt down in front of Will again, and held his hands.

"Will, the stuff we talked about yesterday was negative and heavy. I know that made you think about a lot of different things, even if you didn't talk about them. Don't let the negative stuff control you, Okay? I want you to think about something. Will you do that for me?"

Will was looking out the window, over Jackson's shoulder. Jackson squeezed his hands and shook them a little, "Will you do that for me, please?"

Will looked at him and nodded. Jackson went on, "When I got out of my prison at home and you accepted me back as a friend, do you know what the best part of every single day was? It was getting to school and seeing you. You, my best friend. Who I knew loved me no matter what! Who always had a smile and accepted me! Who went to battle for me! Remember this?"

He raised Will's right arm and slid back his sleeve and exposed the Bear bracelet. "Remember this? It was seeing you each day, being with you each day that made me whole again." He leaned down and kissed Will's hands, then got up and walked to the turntable to lower the tone are. He sat down next to Will with the album sleeve and pointed to the lyrics as the guitar intro to Lovely To See You Again began to play.

Wonderful day, for passing my way
Knock on my door and even the score with your eyes....

Lovely to see you again my friend
Walk along with me to the next bend

Dark cloud of fear is blowing away
Now that you're here, you're going to stay, 'cause it's

Lovely to see you again my friend
Walk along with me to the next bend

Tell us what you've seen
In far away forgotten lands

Where empires have turned back to sand
Wonderful day for passing my way

Knock on my door, and even the score with your eyes.
Lovely to see you again my friend

Walk along with me to the next bend...

The rhythm was driving and upbeat, and it was hard not to feel good at the end just because of the music. I could see a little body movement, like he was subconsciously responding to the music even if his brain wasn't.

"Will, I don't know about you, but the passages that jumped out at me were these:

Lovely to see you again my friend, Walk along with me to the next bend
Dark cloud of fear is blowing away, Now that you're here, you're going to stay
Tell us what you've seen, In far away forgotten lands

"Let's start with the rhythm. It's infectious, isn't it? I don't know if you felt it, but I could see your body feeling it and responding, moving along with the rhythm. Your body was feeling it Will. The first line basically says what Jackson told you a few minutes ago, about how the best thing in his day way back when, was seeing you, being accepted by you."

I nodded at Jackson, and he went on. "You're got to understand Will, that it's always lovely to see you. You're the best. But never forget the second part about walking along with me to the next bend. I'm not letting you go. You can't let yourself go. We're together on this journey. You and me and David, and your family too. We're all walking to the next bend, together. Do you hear me?"

I was a little surprised at how strongly he was putting it, but it felt right. He reached up and turned Will's head so they were looking at each other. "You're walking with me, Okay, Will. We're walking together. You're not leaving this walk. Don't even think about it, ever, Okay."

Will smiled and ever so slightly nodded his head. I hoped he understood that Jackson was fighting for him, would continue to fight for him, wouldn't give up.

When they sat back, I went on, "Will, the second line kind of continues that theme when it says, Dark cloud of fear is blowing away, Now that you're here, you're going to stay. I hope in your mind, with what Jackson just said, you agree you're going to stay. There's no dodging the fact that people going through tragedy think about suicide. You may have, we want you to understand that it's not a good option. Jackson just made clear you're both walking together to the next bend. I hope the dark cloud of fear is blowing away, but only you know that and can tell us that."

I paused, wanting that to sink in. He was still staring out the window, so I continued, "the third phrase is Tell us what you've seen, In far away forgotten lands . You were there and we weren't. You went through it, we didn't. It's up to you to tell us about it when you're ready, Okay. But don't let it take over, don't let if overpower everything else. You've got the best friend in the world sitting there next to you. You know that, don't you? He'll do anything for you. You have to believe that!"

Will glanced at me and nodded his head. I smiled at him and nodded at Jackson. He got up and cued the song up again, and the lead guitar took off with that famous riff. Will seemed to smile as the intro started and first line played. Then it happened, as the guitar riff came back after the first verse, his hands were moving in the air: he was playing air guitar!

Listen to the YouTube video of the Moody Blues performing Lovely To See You Again from the album On the Threshold of a Dream

https://youtu.be/Dj1HBMKblo8

That afternoon we all loaded in the BMW and drove to OMSI, Oregon's Museum of Science and Industry. It was located in Washington Park, next to the Zoo, and we were able to go through the science displays, then have the presentation in the planetarium. By that time, it was late evening and we settled for some fast food at one of the snack bars so we could walk through the Christmas Lights display at the Zoo, where lights decorated the paths and outlined the animal displays. They were well done and quite beautiful. Will was quiet the whole time, but we all moved together as a group and he seemed to enjoy it.

It was after 8:00 PM when we got home, and before we settled in the living room, we called Will's parents and updated them on today's activities. Will said hello and spoke briefly, mainly in short sentences. When we went into the living room and sat down, Will looked expectantly at Jackson. He was quiet, watching, and then smiled. Jackson said, "What?"

Will smiled back. "Aren't you going to ask?"

Jackson's smile widened. "Ask what?"

"Ask how I'm feeling."

"Well, yeah. That's a given. So, how are you feeling."

"I'm feeling something, I guess something warm. It's not like I'm feeling happy, but it's the kind of warm feeling that you get when you come in out of the cold, and you can feel the heat seeping in."

Jackson reached up his hand and placed it on Will's cheek and held it there, and said softly, "That empty void is refilling with warm feelings and the cold ones have been chased out." Then leaned over and pulled him into an embrace. His face was in Will's neck and I don't know if he said anything else, if so, I couldn't hear it. Will's face was still pretty expressionless, but I could see the muscles twitch around his eyes, and they blinked, and I saw him looking around the room.

The next morning dawned with high clouds and no rain. It was still a little gray, but it was light and felt brighter and airier. I made French Toast and Jackson cooked bacon, and to our surprise, Will seemed to have a normal appetite.

After we cleaned up and settled down in the living room, I noticed that while Will was still pretty expressionless, he wasn't staring out the window. He was watching us, looking from one to the other. He was with us in the room. Jackson stood in front of him and said softly, "Will, this song is about the kind of stuff you're going through again. We'll talk about it afterwards, Okay?"

Will nodded and gave a little half smile. The drum roll that started Candle of Life began, followed by the melody of the song, then the soft lyrics reaching out through the room as Jackson sat down next to him with the album sleeve and they read the lyrics together.

Something you can't hide
Says you're lonely
Hidden deep inside
Of you only
It's there for you to see
Take a look and be
Burn slowly, the Candle of Life

Something there outside
Says we're only
In the hands of time
Falling slowly
It's there for us to know
With love that we can go
Burn slowly, the Candle of Life

So love everybody and make them your friends
So love everybody and make them your friends

Something you can't hide
Says you're lonely
Hidden deep inside
Of you only
It's there for you to see
Take a look and be
Burn slowly, the Candle of Life

Something there outside
Says we're only
In the hands of time
Falling slowly
It's there for us to know
With love that we can go
Burn slowly, the Candle of Life

The song was so beautiful and melodic and soothing with backing strings and piano, and we sat quietly after it ended. Will has shifted to looking out the window as the song played.

I said softly, "Will do you want to say anything, or do you want me to start?"

He shook his head, and I went on, "The first two lines, Something you can't hide says you're lonely, Hidden deep inside of you only, are pretty straightforward, and ask you to try to see yourself through our eyes, that we can see how lonely you feel, how empty you feel. It's something you can't hide, from us or from yourself. Can you understand that?"

He nodded, still staring out the window.

Jackson picked it up. "You heard the song is about the candle of life. Now listen to the next two lines, It's there for you to see, take a look and be, then goes on Something there outside, Says we're only…in the hands of time. It's hidden deep inside of you Will, you've pushed it down deep, but it's there to see if you'll just take a look. It hasn't gone out, it's just way down there."

I could see a slight frown form on Will's forehead like the thought had clicked and he was trying to understand it, trying to connect with the implications of what Jackson said.

I waited, and when his frown relaxed, I went on, "The next two lines follow, Will, It's there for us to know

With love that we can go…Burn slowly, the Candle of Life. Like Jackson said, it's there, you just have to look deep. And, it's important because we're all in the hands of time, life is going on at its own pace, and we're all part of it. We just have to agree to be part of it, to know that with love we can go on. There's also something about 'burn slowly' that is saying you can't rush things; that the good things take their own good time to happen; also, that when bad things happen, they only occupy a fraction of your life – however all-consuming it may seem at the time."

I nodded at Jackson, and he pointed to the lyrics in the album cover. With love that we can go, Burn slowly, the Candle of Life. So love everybody and make them your friends. See, Will, the candle of life burns, it burns slowly, and what makes the candle of life burn, what gives us life, is love. That's why the next part is about loving everybody and making them your friends. It's when you give love that you receive love. Like you loved me even though I just disappeared from your life. When I came back you just loved me, helped my candle of life come to light and start burning again. So, we're asking you to reach down deep and find your candle of life and start bringing it up so we can see it, so we can be part of its light."

Jackson fell silent, looking longingly at his friend. After a few seconds, Will turned his face to look at Jackson and smiled. I swore there was a sparkle or some sign of life in his eyes. He didn't say anything, he just smiled. I got up and replaced the tone arm, and the song played again. They were both following the lyrics.

Listen to the YouTube video of the Moody Blues Candle of Life from the album To Our Childrens Children's Children

https://youtu.be/0Ts3L4pN-M4

When it was over, I lifted the tone arm and asked Will if he wanted to say anything about how he was feeling? He was quiet, then shook his head, then looked at both of us and said, "Just thanks." Then he looked out the window again.

That afternoon we went to the matinee showing of the animated version of The Lord of the Rings that had released the month before. It only covered The Fellowship of the Ring and the first half of The Two Towers , but it was fun and exciting, and a treat to see right after reading the books.

We ate supper when we got home, and then settled in the living room to continue talking about the film, how believable (or not) the characters were, and finally the question of good triumphing over evil.

After a while the conversation quieted down, and I glanced at Jackson who nodded at Will and smiled. I looked over at Will, and he was smiling.

Jackson lightly punched him on the shoulder. "What?"

Will said softly, "I'm waiting."

Jackson chuckled and said, "Okay, I'll ask, but you know you don't have to wait. You can tell us how you're feeling without us asking. Have you thought about Candle of Light today? How are you feeling?

"I can feel the candle's still there. Still burning. I've just got to bring it out of its hiding place. I don't know how hard that'll be, but that's what I have to do if I'm going to walk with you to the next bend."

I almost jumped for joy. It had been registering. Or, at least a lot of it had been registering. We were far from out of the woods, but we were making progress. Jackson and Will listened to some music and I went to call Will's parents and let them know what we'd done today, and that there were signs of life.

When it was bedtime, Jackson walked Will down to his room, then a few minutes later came back and sat down next to me. "You won't believe it. He just said 'I'm fine, I can sleep alone cause you and David are right next door. You need to be with David.' Is that a mind-blower, or what?"

We both slept well that night, and the next morning dawned with broken sunlight that elevated our mood even further. Will was eating. He was communicating. He was acting like he was part of us again. While we were preparing breakfast, Jackson said, "This one should be fun, it's about friendship again, and about animals."

We sat down as usual, and Jackson stood in front of Will and said, "Thanks for telling us last night how you're feeling. That you know your candle is still burning, and that you know you have to bring it out from that hiding place. This song is about friends, but it's fun because it's also uses animals to illustrate the points. I think you'll like it."

As usual, he lowered the tone arm, and sat down next to Will and pointed out the lyrics in the album cover. As the opening strains softly played, giving the sense of being in a theater, we waited for the lyrics of Watching and Waiting to join the music.

Watching and waiting
For a friend to play with
Why have I been alone so long
Mole he is burrowing his way to the sunlight
He knows there's someone there so strong

'Cause here there's lot of room for doing
The thing you've always been denied
Look and gather all you want to
There's no one here to stop you trying

Soon you will see me
'Cause I'll be all around you
But where I come from I can't tell
But don't be alarmed by my fields and my forests
They're here for only you to share

'Cause here there's lot of room for doing
The things you've always been denied
So look and gather all you want to
There's no one here to stop you trying

Watching and waiting
For someone to understand me
I hope it won't be very long

As I walked back from raising the tone arm I said, "I think that's a really nice song. I hope you don't think it's too childish or too cutesy." I saw him shake his head slightly.

"Good. Do you want us to start? He nodded his head, and I glanced at Jackson.

"I don't know about you, but I like the use of moles and fields and forests because it lets me imagine in my mind what they are, the way I want them to be. You remember all the moles back home in Newberg? Overnight a mole pile would show up where it was perfectly clear the day before? That's the image of the mole digging up toward the sunlight. The way I picture it, we're up there in the fields and forests, and you're down below, but you're burrowing your way up. Like you said yesterday, you're got to un-hide your candle, bring it up from down there." He reached over and rubbed Will's shoulders with his hand.

I picked it up, "So, Will, you know, we're the friends in the line Watching and waiting For a friend to play with, Why have I been alone so long. We know you haven't really been alone that long, but we're guessing that it feels like forever. We're hoping you're deciding that you don't want to be there anymore, and that like in the next line, Soon you will see me, 'Cause I'll be all around you, soon you'll be out of your burrow and up in the sunlight with us. This is about your friends, the friend the first line talked about, a friend to play with, and we hope you're seeing us as friends again, knowing we're all around you.""

I nodded at Jackson who went right on, "Like the next line says, 'Cause here there's lot of room for doing The things you've always been denied. I think you know what this means, Will. Here you can totally be yourself. You don't need to deny anything. You can talk about anything. You don't have to deny or hide being bi, just be totally you, Okay? You know we're gay, we're not going to judge or condemn anything about you. We honor and love everything about you."

Will was leaning forward now, his elbows on his knees, his chin on his clasped hands. He was looking out the window, and I could see the signs of the emotion sweep across his face. There was some kind of inner struggle going on. That was a good sign

I wrapped it up, saying, "The last line in the song is really nice. So look and gather all you want to, There's no one here to stop you trying, is just telling you that you're safe and loved. This carries on from the last line, you're here in our fields and forest. It's safe. You can be you. You're totally accepted. We're here to help, not to stop you trying. I think of the 'look and gather' part as explore, be brave, try this or that, but the point is we're not trying to stop you. You said you've hidden your candle of life and have to bring it back. You also can't repress or deny who you are because of what happened. That's really important, Will, it would be living a lie, and it's not healthy.

Jackson leaned over and put his arm around Will's shoulder, saying, "Just know, like we've said over and over, you're our best friend in the world. We're here for you. We're watching and waiting. We already understand you. Maybe the rest of the world doesn't yet, but we do. We understand you and what you're going through. We accept you and we love you. And we hope it won't be very long."

Watch the YouTube video of the Moody Blues performing Watching and Waiting from the album To Our Childrens Children's Children

https://youtu.be/yD7r22sjdDM

We played the song again and I asked him if he wanted to say anything. He was quiet for a minute, then looked at Jackson and me and said softly, "I know you're my friends. I know you love me." His expression was a little anguished, almost like the emotions were about to break through.

Like we always did when we finished, we stood up and embraced, but this time instead of a mechanical hug, he was pulling us tight, and I almost felt his torso moving as if he really was feeling something emotional.

It was Saturday, and we needed to do some domestic stuff, so Will was enlisted to join us in washing and ironing clothes, and doing some light house cleaning. He seemed happy to join in. At least he didn't resist. After that we had lunch and then went grocery shopping so we had it all done by mid-afternoon and we could be in place for the evening's event, which was watching the Christmas Ship Parade on the Willamette River.

Marcia had told us about it, a tradition that started in 1954 with one lone sailboat from Portland Yacht Club, but now had grown into a fleet of all types and sizes of boats that were brightly, and occasionally gaudily, decorated with Christmas lights. They would sail from Riverplace downtown, upstream to Lake Oswego, and turn and sail back. Marcia had told us how lovely it was to watch, and that it had grown into such a tradition that reservations in the restaurants along the river were booked months in advance. We decided to forego the restaurant approach, since we lived so close to our own park on the river.

The fleet of over fifty boats sailed from Riverplace at 5:00 PM, and we figured it would be at least 5:30 before they made it to the Sellwood area. We dressed warmly and with a thermos of hot chocolate, walked to the park, arriving there about 5:15. It had been raining on and off during the day, but was now starting to clear, and the cloud deck while still low, was high enough for decent visibility on the river.

It wasn't too much past 5:30 when we could hear the murmur from the crowd at the downstream end of the park, and a few minutes later could see the lights of the first ship coming into view. It took twenty minutes for the whole fleet to pass, brightly festooned with an amazing array of lights and colors. Some simply outlined the boat. Others were amazingly complicated designs that outline and decorated masts and sails. Some people had invested a lot of time, energy and money to make this happen.

The children in our crowd of onlookers in the park were full of excitement, cheering and calling out about this one and that one, and most of the boats, seeing a large crowd gathered at the park rang their bell or tooted their horn as they paraded past. Jackson had a small pack with the thermos, and I was standing between them, an arm around both. Will was typically quiet as the event began, but as the fleet began to pass, and the excitement built and the children jumped up and down and cheered, I could see him smile and become more excited, expressing the beginnings of joy on his face. It was a pleasure to see.

We decided not to wait another hour for the return passage, but walked home for a pleasant supper. Jackson had started to enlist Will in the salad preparation as the week went on, and this evening he was helping with basic food prep too. We chatted about the Christmas Fleet over dinner, comparing the decorating jobs on different boats, which was the best, and all that kind of discussion. He was becoming more and more a part of the conversation.

After we washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, we settled into the living room. Jackson and I had agreed to be quiet and see if Will took the initiative. I could see from my chair that something was going on in there, from the muscle twitches around his eyes and the blinking, and the occasional smile as he organized his thoughts.

Finally, he said, "I know you're waiting for me. So, can I tell you how I'm feeling?"

Jackson leaned over and hugged him, "Go for it, man."

"I'm feeling like I'm almost in the sunlight, like I can feel the warmth of the sun coming through the ground. I know you guys are there, and the fields and forests are waiting for me, and it's safe there and that you love me."

He was still looking straight ahead, but there was the expression on his face, the kind happens when you get emotional, just before you start crying. Our boy was feeling and emoting! I was ecstatic.

Jackson was overcome, and pulled Will in for the biggest hug ever. I saw him kiss the side of Will's head and heard him say, "I'm so happy, man. Thanks for telling us that." He slid to his left and pulled Will over with him, and nodded his head to tell me to come over and join them. I did, and we all settled down into a group hug-a-thon on the couch.

After a couple of minutes, Jackson slowly untangled himself and stood up, saying he had a surprise for us both. He walked over to the record collection, pulled one out and said, "I bet you haven't listened to this in years. You told me about it last summer." It was the second Fleetwood Mac album titled Then Play On, and I hadn't listened to it in years. It had released in 1969, my Freshman year in college, and as soon as I saw the album cover, I remembered the mix of blues and pop songs with some Latin influenced jazz tunes.

I grinned, and said, "I've got the big quiz question of the day. I bet you guys can't tell me where the title comes from." Jackson looked at the cover with the naked young man riding a horse bareback and his brow furrowed. I still had my arm around Will, who had been listening, but his face was blank. They both said they'd never heard it before. I hassled them about not being in touch with big hits when they were in Third Grade, and then told them about how the title was taken from the opening line of Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, "If music be the food of love, play on."

The music style was very different from what we'd been focusing on this week, and so it was a pleasant alternative. They liked most of the songs, and to my surprise both really latched onto the instrumental Underway with its mix of strong percussion work and guitar solo.

Listen to the YouTube video of Fleetwood Mac performing Underway from the album Then Play On

https://youtu.be/-S6uOShZ_FQ

Sunday morning, we slept in a bit, and Jackson knew Will had never had Gas House Specials, so we decided on that, including a small food fight if we could get him engaged. I was at the counter next to the stove, and Jackson was sitting at the table when Will came in the kitchen.

"Hi, Bro. Sleep well? Want some coffee?"

Will said he'd had a good night, and asked for coffee, and I noticed he was smiling as he sat down. Jackson handed him a cup and then came over next to me and I gave him half the bread rounds, then we turned, and I said in as challenging a French accent as I could muster, " En Garde , you scoundrel!" Will looked up, surprised. Then the bread rounds started flying his way. The first went by his head, and he looked confused. The second one hit him in the chest and dropped onto the table, then he figured out what was happening. The third one hit him in the forehead, but he caught the next three and without even thinking about it started flipping them back at us. Jackson caught one and threw it back, and they both started laughing like eighth graders.

When the laughing stopped, Jackson said, "Good reflexes, Bro. I didn't think you'd be that quick this early in the morning."

Will was still recovering, but said, "Good to know I've still got my reflexes, isn't it? What's the deal?"

I told him the origin of the bread rounds, and Jackson gave him our standard line about how great it was to have a breakfast that produced cool stuff to have food fights with. Will was grinning and was part of the give and take, and I thought to myself, this might be the second time a food fight was part of a breakthrough in personal interactions.

After we'd cleaned up, I just said, "Come on, let's head into the living room," and as we walked in, for the first time, Will was a little animated, not just silently following along. When we'd take our usual seats, Jackson was standing in front of Will, who appeared to have a slight look of anticipation on his face. Jackson knelt down again, putting his hands on top of Will's, which were clasped on his knees. They were both looking directly at each other. Will wasn't looking away. Importantly, I thought, he wasn't looking out the window. He was here, in the room, making eye contact with Jackson.

"Will, this song is kind of heavy, but the message is really, really important. Even if you've heard it a bunch before, do me a favor and listen, please. There's an Introduction that's spoken. The first part that describes nature and animals, it could be a continuation of the mole and fields and forests in Waiting and Watching. Then it goes on to talk about life and love. After that the song starts. The arrangement is beautiful, the melody is terrific, and the lyrics are really important. There's a long instrumental section in the middle. This is for you, Will, because you're my best friend, Okay?"

I saw him squeeze Will's hands before he got up to lower the tone arm, and then sit down next to Will with the album cover and the lyrics in front of them.

When the white eagle of the North is flying overhead
The browns, reds and golds of autumn lie in the gutter, dead.
Remember then, that summer birds with wings of fire flaying
Came to witness springs new hope, born of leaves decaying.
As new life will come through death, love will come at leisure.
Love of love, love of life and giving without measure
Gives in return a wondrous yearn of a promise almost seen.
Live hand-in-hand and together we'll stand on the threshold of a dream.

Now you know that you are real,

Show your friends that you and me
Belong to the same world,
Turned on to the same word,
Have you heard?
Now you know that you are free,
Living all your life at ease.
Each day has its always,
A look down life's hallways, doorways,
To lead you there.

Now you know how nice it feels,
Scatter good seed in the fields.
Life's ours for the making,
Eternity's waiting, waiting,
For you and me.
Now you know that you are real,
Show your friends that you and me
Belong to the same world,
Turned on to the same word,
Have you heard?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?

As the last refrains of Have you heard? faded into silence, Jackson stood up and raised the tone arm, and then sat back down next to Will. He glanced at me and smiled.

I smiled back and turned to Will, "You seem to be in a better place today, Will, so I hope you were able to hear that song at face value. I don't think it needs a lot of interpretation. The introduction sets the stage, by looking at nature and making the simple observation that nature follows cycles, and among those cycles is the cycle of life and death. Then it goes on, pointing out that love of life and love of love and giving without measure hold a promise of life together, on the threshold of a dream... and we can make that dream."

He was nodding his head a little, looking at me and smiling slightly. "I liked it. The words are nice."

"That's really encouraging, and the words are nice and encouraging, aren't they? Then I see the song in three sections, the first is the one that beings with Now you know that you are real, Show your friends that you and me Belong to the same world, Turned on to the same world, Have you heard? Do you want to take a shot at explaining that?"

He shook his head, but was still smiling.

"That's Okay, I will then. I think of it this way. You're bringing your candle back up from that deep place, like the mole burrowing up to the sunlight. You know what's real now, and you can show your friends because we belong to the same world, we're turned on to the same word."

He was quiet, and so was I, then I said, "Have you heard?"

He looked at me, and smiled, nodding slightly.

I glanced at Jackson, and he put his finger on the lyrics and said, "The next section is this one, Now you know that you are free, Living all your life at ease. Each day has its always, A look down life's hallways, doorways, To lead you there. It seems to me that once you get your candle back to the surface where we can see it, then you'll be out from under this load, it'll be easier and you'll be able to look ahead again, down life's hallways and through the doorways. Does that make sense to you?"

He turned to look and Jackson and smiled, again nodding slightly.

"Did you like that psychedelic instrumental section that came next?" He smiled, but didn't nod his head. It probably wasn't completely his cup of tea.

"So, to me the next section is like the mole is out of the burrow, in the sunlight, up in the fields and forests, when they say, Now you know how nice it feels, Scatter good seed in the fields. Life's ours for the making, Eternity's waiting, waiting, For you and me. Or another way of saying it is, you've brought your candle of life back from that hidden place and you're sharing it with your friends again. Does that make sense to you? Do you feel it that way?"

He was still smiling and nodded his head again.

"That's great, Will," I said softly, glancing at Jackson.

Jackson put his arm around Will's shoulder and pulled him tight to him. "Then the rest of the song is it asking you the same question, almost to make sure you heard it. Have you heard? Have you heard? So, Will, we have to ask you: have you heard?"

He was silent, but looking up at Jackson and then over to me, his face almost constricted with emotion. Finally, he said, "Yes. I've heard, but I don't know if I can do it."

He was looking at me when he said it, and I replied softly, "Can you tell us why?"

He was quiet again, then he said, "Because of what she said to me."

"Can you tell us who she is?"

Another pause, then, "Kevin's mother."

"Will, what did she tell you? When?"

"When I called, and I found out he'd killed himself."

Jackson still had his arm around him, holding him tight. He was still looking at me. "Will, what did she tell you?"

He was silent, then started trying to speak, and it was almost like he was choking on something. Then he cleared his throat and said, "She said, she told me…that, that, uhm, it…it was me. That I was to blame."

I knew finally we'd gotten to the core problem. I still had his eyes, and I got up and walked over to where he was sitting on the couch, with Jackson's arm around his shoulder, never losing eye contact with him. I sat down on the coffee table and picked up his hands, and said, "Will, tell us what she said."

He choked again, holding back tears now. She said, "If he hadn't met a dirty homo like you, he never would have fallen. He would have remained pure, he would have been a good son, and gone to seminary, and been a priest and continued the family tradition. Instead, he met you, he was corrupted by you and your sinfulness. You seduced him and turned him into something he never was, you made him into a homo, you turned him into a fallen sinner. Now my son is in hell for all eternity because of you. You've ruined him. You've destroyed this family. Now get away. We never want to hear from you again."

He was crying now, the tears streaming down his face. What a horrible judgment to have rendered upon you when you were trying to be true to yourself and love the person who said they loved you.

We let him cry, and when he stopped and wiped his eyes on his sweatshirt sleeve, Jackson went and got some tissue. I didn't let go of his hands, Jackson dropped the tissue in his lap and put his arm back around him and then I released his hands. After he blew his nose and wiped his face, I took his hands again and said softly, "Will, please listen very hard to what I'm about to say to you."

He was looking at me directly again, and nodded slightly. "What she said is not only false, it is a lie. It's the type of thing a person says when they're lashing out, trying to hurt other people because they can't accept or understand the pain they are going through. Kevin's mother may have no idea that the majority of the cause came right out of her family and her religious belief system, but it did. Kevin didn't think he could live anymore because he couldn't deal with the guilt, and that came from his family and his religion. He couldn't reconcile that with who he was and his love for you. Whether she did it on purpose or not, what his mother said to you completely ignores what you would be feeling, was totally self-centered, and its real purpose was to hurt you. It was a lie. You're one of the best people I've ever known. What did Jackson tell you early this year after you admitted you were bi, and you guys kissed and hugged each other?"

He was quiet. I knew it was a ton of stuff to hear and process. "Will, can you remember what Jackson told you?"

He was crying again.

"Jackson, do you remember what you told him?" His eyes were wet too, but he nodded.

"Tell Will again what you told him then."

"Will, look at me." His face was still wet with the tears, but he turned to look at Jackson. "I told you that you weren't just my best friend, the best friend in the world, but that you were an honorable person."

They looked at each other quietly for a few seconds. "And when we talked about it later, Will," I said softly, "I told you that contrary to what the religion says, you are not a depraved person. You are a loving and honorable person. What Kevin's mother said is not what loving and honorable people do. It's the exact opposite."

"But, but…she said I was to blame. That he's in hell because of me."

"Will, the most common thing to do in a tragedy like this is to shift the blame. The blame lies solidly at the feet of the religious belief system that declared Kevin to be a depraved sinner. Worse, it condemned Kevin to hell just for being gay, regardless of any actions he took or didn't take. That loaded his life with guilt, and required him to try to live a morally perfect life that was not only unachievable but meant he could never accept himself. And, until he could accept himself, that he was gay, he could never fully accept the fact that he loved you."

He was quiet now. The tears had stopped, it was like the emotions had been turned off.

I reached up and held his face in my hands, "Will, hear me, please. Until he could accept who he was and live a life true to that, he could never accept he loved you. That's why you always felt like you were outside or never fully accepted. Because you weren't. Because he couldn't. But you loved him, and you tried and tried, and you never gave up because you are loving and honorable."

"Is it true?" His eyes had such a deep pleading in them I thought it would rip my heart out. I stood up and pulled both of them up too, and into my arms. "It's true, Will, it's true. You're not to blame." Suddenly he grabbed onto both of us.

Will sagged into us, losing the ability to stand. As Jackson and I held onto him, we could hear him say, "I'm so sorry Kevin. I loved you so much..." The tears came, and not just from Will. Jackson looked to me and with a slight smile, he nodded. Through my own tears, I smiled back and nodded to him.

I don't know how long we stood like that, but finally the emotional crisis was over, and I released them and said, "let's listen to the song again."

Jackson sat Will down and went to lower the tone arm.

Watch the YouTube video of the Moody Blues perform Have You Heard from the album On The Threshold of a Dream

https://youtu.be/NtUyq6C3bZQ

When the song ended, I said, "Let's leave it there for this morning. I think we've had enough discussion for right now."

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