Monday, March 30, 2009

Lee Davenport

Requiescat in pace
Lee McKinley Davenport (April 13, 1968-March 29, 2009)

If you’re a reader of this blog, you know that Lee Davenport was a regular commenter. Lee was one of my most faithful readers over the last several months, and he frequently offered comments on my essays, either in the blog or in a personal e-mail to me.

Lee and I “met” through my blog, then continued that friendship to his blog and to Facebook and “chat,” but mostly through e-mail. I recognized early on that he was struggling and suffering. I offered what comfort I could and occasionally spoke as his “big sister” or sometimes as his “old maid aunt” – trying to encourage him to be more careful of and caring for himself.

Lee killed himself yesterday.

I am still trying to accept that reality.

I learned this when I hopped onto Facebook during lunchtime. Those of us who knew Lee have been trying to share information and consolation.

Lee was dealing with more trials and tribulations than anyone should have to endure all at once. Lost his satisfying journalism job. Got a cancer diagnosis and had to endure hugely expensive chemo treatment without benefit of health insurance … and suffering the government bureaucracy to get disability benefits. Coping with huge financial concerns, lacking a “real job.” The dissolution of his marriage, coming out (first to himself), and dealing with his parents’ Bible-thumping condemnation. Searching – sometimes desperately, it seemed to me – for a lover and partner. It seems like life on every front was fraught with pain and felt hopeless to Lee. And he finally took the ultimate step on Sunday to be delivered from that pain.

I understand that motivation. I was there about a decade ago. But I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that Lee is gone from us. I cannot believe he fell that far into despair. I am as close to speechless as I get. I wish I could turn back the clock a few days so I could grab him and keep him from doing this thing.

Another friend of Lee’s wrote about how times have changed, now that we can feel so connected to people we haven’t actually met. Lee’s death leaves me feeling diminished. I’ve been as articulate here as I can be. Mostly, I just feel the “sighs too deep for words,” and I groan at the despair that led Lee to kill himself and I groan at his absence from this world.

As a Christian, I also trust that he is now safe in God’s fervent embrace.

I am reminded of one of the last comments Lee left on my blog . It appeared here – when I was musing on the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” and our status as “wretches.” Lee wrote to me:

No, you are absolutely not a wretch.

Just as I am coming to believe myself, you are truly loved. More deeply than you can ever fathom.

For many years, I have dealt with feelings of self-loathing, primarily because I never lived up to my parents' rigid standards and, more recently, because I committed the ultimate betrayal, coming out to them as what Dad calls a "queer" in an effort to shame and hurt. But his words don't shame and hurt. He's not my judge, and neither are the people who would deny me the right to be exactly the person God created me to be.

Your experience is so much like mine. I can change just three little words from your post and make them apply to me to a T. . . .

You're not alone. We're in the same boat with lots of people. I hope they all learn just how closely God holds them to his (her?) heart.

I know God now holds Lee in God’s heart. I wish Lee had really, really believed he was fervently beloved by God.

May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, Lee.


Blogger Fran said...

May he rest in peace, dear Lee.

I knew Lee from your comments, from Dan Sloan's/toujoursdan's blog and facebook and a few other spots but I was not really connected to him.

Nonetheless, I felt such sadness when I read about this on Dan's facebook page this morning and have prayed all day for Lee.

I was just at Dan's blog and saw a comment from someone I know from a whole other circle.She new Lee from where she lived and works in a church in TN; she knew him from her PFLAG group.

Just a reminder of how small this world is and how connected we all are.

Peace, peace, ever peace.

3/30/2009 7:55 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, Fran.

It is indeed a marvelous and fearsome thing that the blogosphere has brought so many of us together.

Reminds me of your presentation about ministry and the blogosphere.

There is huge grief today among those who knew Lee.

3/30/2009 8:01 PM  
Blogger IT said...

lisa, this makes me look back at your post of "love the sinner and hate the sin". When will Some People learn that where there is hate, there is no love. And they who hate, bear in part some responsibility for the despair of this sweet man.

i did not know Lee except vaguely through your comments, but regardless... there have been too many deaths in blogland of late. It adds to my own sense of gloom. waiting for spring....

3/30/2009 8:14 PM  
Blogger Lindy said...

I am sorry for your loss, Lisa. Relationships are no less "real" just because they are in cyber-pace. The sense of loss is no less either. Peace.

3/30/2009 8:17 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Amen, IT! God forgive me for this anger, but I cannot help blaming the Bible-thumpers (especially his Bible-thumping parents) for his death ... and the death of so many others.

"Hate the sin, but love the sinner" is a vicious, hateful lie!

3/30/2009 8:23 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, Lindy.

This virtual world challenges our sense of connection and friendship. How can I grieve so deeply for a man I only knew "virtually" and never in person? It is a quandary that I am still pondering.

I have "met" people in the blogosphere whom I have come to love. At the moment, I wish I could pull in those connections.

3/30/2009 8:27 PM  
Blogger LKT said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. Give rest, Lord, to thy servants with thy saints.

3/30/2009 8:27 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, too, Laura.

I believe Lee was one of God's tormented souls. I need to be more awake and attentive.

3/30/2009 8:29 PM  
Blogger Catherine said...

How close many of us have come to what Lee felt was the only way out...only God knew his heart and his soul and he is now at rest, truly home, where his sorrow will now cease. Pull us in Lisa, reel us in because we are your friends and we care deeply, because as we are, Lee was beloved of God.

3/30/2009 9:12 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

My prayers are with you, Lisa, and all of Lee's "virtual friends" in this time of sadness and loss.

3/30/2009 9:24 PM  
Blogger Caminante said...

I read his blog until it went private. I prayed for him at the time as he dealt with so much in his life. I had lost track (didn't know he'd come out) but did wonder. I have one of his wonderful flower photos he had up, a huge red poppy. I will remember him by that poppy, full of life and joy and pray that he now knows that exuberance, a joy that seems to have escaped him of late.

Prayers for you, Lisa. It is so hard especially in these circumstances not to ask the 'what if's.

Be gentle and know the cyber community can pray hard.

Requiat, Lee...

from a sister Lee
(initially I was wondering on FB what was going on because of egotistically thinking it was my name)

3/30/2009 9:36 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I was there, Catherine. I was there in '97-98. I planned it. It is purely the grace of God that I did not succumb to that despair.

I am grateful for what you said.

3/30/2009 9:52 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. I don't know why I am having such a problem with this. But I am.

3/30/2009 9:53 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, Caminante. Most fervently. So much of what you said ... Yes.

3/30/2009 9:54 PM  
Blogger PseudoPiskie said...

Hugs, Lisa.

3/30/2009 10:21 PM  
Blogger it's margaret said...

You have a good and wonderful heart Lisa --and of course it is possible to love those whom you have never met... the space between you is holy, communion of saints --all that and more.

You and all of Lee's friends are in my prayers.

3/30/2009 10:26 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

You are kind, Margaret.

But I really am curious to think more deeply about our connections in the blogosphere and how it relates to the communion of the saints. But maybe that's a topic for Fran. It may beyond my ken.

3/30/2009 10:55 PM  
Blogger Göran Koch-Swahne said...

The Body of Christ? Isn't that it, Lisa? Much more than the feeling rejected and un-loved.

You wrote: "I wish Lee had really, really believed he was fervently beloved by God."

Too true! We all need to believe that! Prayers ascending!

3/31/2009 4:37 AM  
Blogger Suzer said...

I'm sorry to say I did not know Lee, other than through his comments on the blogs. However, I can see how deeply he was loved, even in the cyber-community, and am so terribly sorry for the loss everyone is feeling.

I, too, have been in the dark place where there is no hope, but thankfully I came out of it. I don't know who to thank for that -- God, perhaps, though it was certainly difficult to feel His presence during that time.

My condolences to all who are grieving the loss of one so dear to them.

3/31/2009 8:34 AM  
Blogger john iliff said...

I am so very sorry to hear this news. Boy does it strike home. We just passed the 2nd anniversary of our beloved gay son's suicide, (about which Grandmere Mimi allowed me to write a guest post).

I don't understand why some of God's children, such as Lee, carry such innordinately heavy burdens through this life - compared to me at least.

3/31/2009 10:37 AM  
Blogger Lauralew said...

So sad. I didn't know him but I do recall many of his comments. You are so right when you speak of the sorry excuse of love the sinner, hate the sin. Hate has no place in this life. None.

3/31/2009 1:56 PM  
Blogger --Susan said...

I did not know Lee in the flesh or virtually. Yet his death, in particular of course the suicide, hurts my heart. I too danced this dark dance.

I rejoice in how he obviously touched your and others' lives. I rejoice in the many who have lived THROUGH this and are able to provide strength and comfort to those struggling now.

Embrace your friends in all your realities. You are all in my prayers.

I'm sorry.

3/31/2009 2:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I didn't know Lee but was on the fringes of the PFLAG group in TN that he was a part of. My heart goes to all of you who did know what seems to be a wonderful person.

May light perpetual shine on him. Much love.

3/31/2009 11:30 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Yes, Göran, I think that's the key thing. I am learning more about it.

Suzer, I can't speak for others. But I will say this. The past 24 hours have given me space to appreciate what I loved about Lee, but also to come to terms with his foibles. GAWD! He was such a drama queen! And he stage-managed his death in that way, too. It makes me laugh with him.

Yes, Suzer, as I've already written, I've been in a similarly dark place. I am struck by the people here who have been there too. We know what it means to look into the brink of despair. But we did not dive into it. We did not succumb to it. That's what makes me angry about Lee.

3/31/2009 11:43 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, JohnI. Yes, I read your story at Grandmere Mimi's, and I'm grateful for your witness here.

I'm trying not to blame Lee's Bible-thumping parents for part of this.

Thank God you were so supportive of your son!

I'm with you: I don't know -- and I thank God! -- that I haven't had to bear the burdens that some of our friends have borne.

Thanks for commenting here, John. And may peace be with you.

Warmly --

3/31/2009 11:46 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Yes, Lauralew! Those people have their reward ...

3/31/2009 11:47 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, Susan. Preach it!

3/31/2009 11:49 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Nenya, I've watched my sitemeter today, and I have been struck by the number of people visiting here from the Tri-Cities area. I suspect you all knew Lee in ways that I did not. Peace to you.

3/31/2009 11:51 PM  
Blogger john iliff said...

Dear Lisa,

Your anger at Lee's bible-thumping family is very understandable. As you well know, homophobia isn't restricted to the fundamentalist, evangelical Protestants. The conservative wing of the Roman Cathoic church is riddled with the same. My son's (and my former) church - the Eastern Orthodox - is absolutely toxic for GLBT's.

Like so many others, my wife and I have found refuge in a local, progressive Episcopal parish. While TEC is far from perfect, as I see it, TEC is not Shame-based.

May Lee, Eric and all Christ's GLBT brothers and sisters be joyfully gathered with Him at the Last Day - to the astonishment of those who persecuted them in this life.

John Iliff (John I.)

4/01/2009 7:23 AM  
Blogger JimB said...

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

I only knew him slightly from blog comments but he always was a thoughtful and nice person. I shall miss him.

I will pray for all who are so deeply hurt by this. I lost a brother who suicided and I can tell you it is devastating. So sad and difficult to accept.


4/01/2009 3:39 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

John, I do know something of your family's story, for I read it on Grandmere Mimi's blog. I understand what you are saying. It grieved me to read about Eric. Thank you visiting here and for offering wise, comforting words.

Thank God for families like yours!

4/01/2009 7:43 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Jim, I didn't know about your brother. I am sorry.

Deep thanks for your understanding.

4/01/2009 7:55 PM  
Blogger John Shuck said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for your post and to all for your comments. Lee was a member of our PFLAG group,

PFLAG Tri-Cities


I am the secretary and web person for PFLAG Tri-Cities.

There will be a service for him at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Bristol TN/VA on Friday at 1 p.m.

I am so pleased that Lee had many wonderful internet friends as well as friends in our area, including me.

We are all brokenhearted and reeling here as we lost one of our own.

4/01/2009 8:42 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

John, I didn't realize you and Lee were neighbors.

Thanks for those links.

I know my blog has had many hits since Sunday from folks in the Tri-Cities area. I hope they are learning that Lee was loved and appreciated by very many people.

I have tried to figure a way to get to Bristol for the service Friday, but I just don't think I can do it.

4/01/2009 9:33 PM  
Blogger June Butler said...

Lisa, what a terrible tragedy. My sympathy to you and to all who love Lee. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. May God give comfort and consolation and peace to all who grieve for him.

I once thought that an online community could not be a real community, but I've come to a different conclusion after years of sustaining virtual friendships that are just as full of meaning as those in my real life. If I feel a bond with a person online, the bond is inevitably there if I meet them in real life.

"Love the sinner, hate the sin" nearly always results in hating the sinner, and those on the receiving end pay the price.

Lord, have mercy.

4/02/2009 11:12 AM  
Blogger CapriCat said...

It doesn't seem like it's been almost 4 years ago. He is truly missed.

3/25/2013 10:11 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you for your comment, CapriCat. It's hard to believe 4 years have passed since Lee's death. I've read back thru all these comments, and it all seems so fresh.

Oh, Lee, you broke my heart.

4/10/2013 11:34 PM  

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