Today is always a mixed day emotionally for me, the anniversary of Grandad Jeff’s passing through lung cancer and my other Grandad’s birthday. But this post is less to do with my own agony and more to do with another woman’s pain. A few days ago I read this post by Grace Phelps, granddaughter of Fred Phelps and it broke my heart into several million pieces. Here was the pain of a grandchild and the agony of dealing with the way the media were already dancing on his, albeit metaphorical, grave. So below is the letter I want to write to Grace and would send to her if I had a postal address, so that she knows someone out here in the big wide world cares.
I read your blog post and wept. I can’t imagine the added pain your family and the media have created for you in the past few days. Our grandfathers were very different men, yours always in the media, mine completely under the radar, and their views on life were completely opposing. But they both had one thing in common, as do we, the grandfather/grandchild relationship. These were and are men we love with all our hearts, whom we spent a huge chunk of our lives looking up to and running to for hugs and kisses.
I won’t pretend that the coming days will be easy, and I wish you could spend them outside of the public eye. I wish you could be there at his funeral to say goodbye. I wasn’t there at Grandad Jeff’s funeral, or to say goodbye, and I know the emotional wounds that that inflicts. I hope that you and Megan cling to each other in the days to come, that you share your happier stories of the past and that you try to block out the reaction that is already beginning.
It’s likely that at the moment you feel numb. That’s a perfectly normal reaction, as are the tears, the anger, the gaping hole in your heart, and the feeling of not being strong enough to cope with this, that are a part of grief. I’ve been there, I’ve tried to deal with it as best I could, please don’t stop reaching out in your hour of grief. Internalising it will not help, I’ve been there and it only succeeds in making the world a very dark and lonely place. Please know that there are people out here in the wider world who are not celebrating his death. We are there with you and all the former members (and current members) of the Westboro Baptist Church as you come to terms with the loss of someone you held dear.
I pray that if there is an afterlife (and I sincerely believe there is, regardless of how it happens), your grandfather has passed into it easily. That he can see you from where he is and know that he is loved. I pray that he is taught the truths of the world with compassion and love in the next life and that he sees the error of his ways. As a Genderqueer Lesbian, I hold no malice towards him. Only hope that his example continues to help others realise their mistakes.
Tonight as I light a candle for Grandad Jeff, I’ll light another for you and your grandfather too.
With much love and sympathy,