John M. Becker

FL Couple's Final Journey Shows Why Marriage Matters

Filed By John M. Becker | April 16, 2014 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Bernard Richard Schiffer, Chris MacLellan, Florida, gay marriage, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, tear-jerker, why marriage matters

richard-chris-orlando.jpgSome of the most beautiful, tragic, and heartbreakingly poignant stories in the fight for marriage equality are the stories of couples who encounter illness and death.

Some of them -- like Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer of New York and John Arthur and Jim Obergefell of Ohio -- were able to hold on just long enough to tie the knot.

Others -- like Derence Kernek and Ed Watson, Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom, and Robert Smith and Steven Rynes -- were parted by death before they ever had the chance.

Committed same-sex couples like these prove with their very lives why marriage equality matters and why marriage discrimination is both totally immoral and unimaginably cruel. Whether or not they were ever able to make it legal, their relationships show what real love is, what a real marriage looks like.

Another such couple is Chris MacLellan and Bernard Richard Schiffer (pictured above). They're two Fort Lauderdale men who let a pair of journalists from the South Florida Sun Sentinel document the last months of their life together -- and the particular challenges they faced as a same-sex, intergenerational couple -- as Bernard died of esophageal cancer.

The paper printed Chris and Richard's story this weekend and published an incredibly moving photo-and-story package online called "In Sickness and in Health: A Couple's Final Journey."

You simply must click through and read it. Fair warning, though: have tissues handy, because you'll need them. (In fact, their story is so powerful that I haven't even been able to bring myself to watch the video that goes along with it.)

Just click here. Read. Watch. Weep. Work for equality.

(Big h/t to Joe Jervis of Joe. My. God.)

Update: This story really deeply resonates with me, as I know it does for many people. I debated over whether or not to share my personal reflections in this post, and I initially didn't include them, but I've changed my mind -- maybe they'll speak to you, or cause you to see Chris and Richard's story in a different way. (Or maybe you'll think I'm full of it, which is fine too!)

If you feel like reading them, they're after the jump.

Here goes, via Facebook:

I'm no longer a religious person, but I grew up as one, and religious themes remain powerful ways through which I -- even as a nonreligious person -- experience the world. Whenever Holy Week comes around, as it does this week, I can't help but reflect on themes of life and death, loss and love.

Holy Week is a week where Christians hear the story of Jesus's Passion -- "passion" meaning, according to that tradition, the profound way Jesus Christ suffered before his death. When I read Chris and Richard's story, the passion theme came immediately to my mind.

What a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, sorrowful, and unjust Passion it is that marriage discrimination forces same-sex couples like Richard and Chris to endure at the end of life -- reams of paperwork and hostile families and indifferent medical professionals and envelopes full of documents. What a cruel thing it is that on top of the already immeasurable grief of losing one's beloved, our society places these kinds of profoundly degrading, inhumane burdens on two people in love as they say goodbye for the last time.

One day, may awful Passions like these be no more.

Okay, now if you haven't already done so, click through and read Richard and Chris's story.


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