Harold Forbes’ secret was slowly destroying a man who genuinely made the world a better place.
Harold, better known to his friends and parishioners as Pastor Hank, was thankful for the celebration taking place to honor his twenty-five years of ministry at Mountain Bible Church. Early retirement hadn’t been in his plan, but the toll of taking care of his beloved Louise - plus leading his growing ministry was becoming too much for him. Caretaking also hadn’t been in his plan, but God – Hank’s lone advisor – reminded him of his promise: Till death do you part. He knew that he was entering a new season of life. And death. He didn’t need any persuasion to love his wife to the end.
As the pastor of a church, Hank couldn’t confide in any of his friends - most were members of his congregation. What would those friends think of a man who adamantly preached against the sin of sexual immorality and yet committed his own private offense in the underground recess of his heart?
He had known he was gay since his college days… and suspected it long before. At school he fell in love – with another man, someone he had met in a drama class. The two kept their feelings for each other quiet, as quiet as living in a dorm would allow, but their relationship developed quickly and unexpectedly. Neither would have ever forecasted their future this way, but something just clicked between them.
Both Hank and Brian knew that their actions were wrong according to everything they had read in their Bibles and everything they had learned as children in Sunday school. Yet their attraction to each other was stronger than any force either had ever experienced. They were in love and they gradually became lovers. To this day, emotions re-surface when Hank recalls the moment he found out that Brian had been killed in a car wreck while returning home from a Christmas vacation with his family. Bearing a grief he could not share, he continued to carry the weight of the secret.
After the accident, Hank transferred to a Christian college, got his degree in Religious Studies and became a pastor. He and Louise met during his senior year, got married two years later, had three kids and lived happily ever after…except for the skeleton in the closet.
No matter how hard he tried, no matter how much he focused on his ministry, his marriage and his family…he never forgot Brian. He always wondered what his life would be like if Brian had not died, and he felt guilty for even thinking about it. He was a liar, a deceiver; disloyal to Louise, to his kids and to his church. Yet his feelings for Brian never diminished and he wondered how he could be so committed to a relationship that seemed so wrong, yet felt so right. His conscience was getting the best of him and he had nowhere to turn.
Giving his wife as much privacy and dignity as she needed during her last weeks, Hank had recently moved to the guest room. As he made his way down the hall to the guest bath, he was drawn to the light glowing underneath Louise’s door. Gently pushing the door open, he witnessed a very cute angel, propped up, reading glasses down on her nose, studying her tattered Bible.
“Hi Hon, c’mon in.”
Sliding into the chair placed by her bed for special guests, Hank took her hand and spoke tenderly, “Hi my sweet thing, can I get you something?”
“Just you, Baby. Stay with me a while, will you?”
Hank’s soft gaze fell on his beloved; his best friend, his soul mate, his greatest admirer. He broke the silence. “Louise, I need to tell you something.” There was a slight pause. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for so long but I just didn’t know…”
Raising a hand to prevent her superhero from revealing an unwanted confession she answered, “Shhhh, Babe, I know...I know all about him. Just let it go.”
A tear rolled off of Hank’s cheek splashing onto her pale hand. Mesmerized by her saintly expression, he asked, “How did you…?
“Let it go, Sweetheart. It doesn’t matter. I love you. Just let it go.”
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