Thursday, May 26, 2022

Remembering Alison

Last Friday I learned that my friend Alison had passed away earlier that morning. She was diagnosed with cancer just the week before and then she gone. She is one of a number of people who have opened their door to me and made their house my home. 

In the spring of 2015 I needed a new place to live in Tucson. My friend fun Laura sent me an advertisement that had been emailed to everyone in her master's program about a retired woman looking to rent a room to a female international students. I definitely did not fit that description, but I was intrigued. I emailed her anyway and she invited me over to the house. A few days later I pulled up to the house and said out loud to myself, "I want to live here." We hit it off and I moved in a shortly after that. 

It's always a bit awkward moving into someone else's house, but Alison made me comfortable immediately. When she showed me my room she said, "The last tenant had her bed over by the window, but personally I'd put it by the wall under the A/C vent." I agreed and moved the bed. 

I talk about Alison all the time when I give firesides. She's one of the "retired lesbians" I always talk about ("They were retired professionally, not from being lesbians."). I also mention Alison and her partner in my book and in my TEDx BYU talk. Alison was so honored to be part of my story. She asked me not to use her name and I honored that request. When the first box of books arrived I mailed her a signed copy that day. After reading it she said, "Why did you write this for Mormons? Everyone needs to read it!" Alison always believed in me. 

Our house became a central hub of LGBTQ Latter-day Saint gatherings in Tucson the year and a half I lived there. I'd always ask Alison's permission before filling her house up with people yet again. She was always so happy to have us gather in her home. When I'd tell her about some event I was planning she would sometimes put her hand on my shoulder and say, "You're doing important work. I'm so proud of you." 

Alison wasn't shy about complaining or pointing out an injustice in the world or something that just wasn't working. One day she was complaining about something related to the house and I asked if there was something I could do differently. She said, "Benji, you're a prince." Only a few people in my life have ever called me Benji. 

One day I was leaving for school on my bike and Alison was out in the front yard. I had my headphones in and no helmet on. In a stern voice she said, "Ben, please tell me..." and I was prepared to get a talking to about the importance of helmets and not listening to music while riding, but she ended the end sentence, "...that you're wearing sunscreen." "I am!" I replied. And then she waved goodbye as I rode off to school.

I typed the first words of my dissertation sitting in Alison's living room. She had completed a PhD decades before and told me stories of writing on note cards and legal pads and then paying someone to type everything up on a typewriter. So different than me sitting with my laptop using a word processor.  We often talked about my school work and how much things had changed. It was quite a gift to be living with someone who had written a dissertation while going through that grueling process. 

Alison's house
Alison and her partner were in Seattle in June 2016 while I was home visiting my parents. My parents wanted to meet them so we had them over for dinner. My mom and I went to the store to get food and she had trouble figuring out what to buy. Then when we got home she couldn't figure out how make the dinner. This was my first clue that something was not right with my mom. Alison and her partner came over that night and we had lovely time chatting and I was thrilled that they got to meet my parents. Two months after that dinner I was sitting in my bedroom in Alison's house in Tucson when I got the news that my mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. That's where I first cried about losing my mom. So many important memories in my life, good and bad, are tied to my time living with Alison.

In the days since I've learned about Alison's passing I've spent a lot of timing thinking about her and her impact on my life. Our friendship was so random and unexpected, and yet it was exactly what I needed. She didn't always understand why I made the choices I did, but she always honored those choices and cheered me on.

I have this thing I do when someone I love dies. I pray that some of my relatives will greet that person in the Spirit World and thank them for helping me here on earth. I believe in an afterlife and I hope that Dorothy and Walt Schilaty and Malvene Grimshaw and Monty Smith have gotten to talk with Alison and thank her for all she did for me. Alison was Buddhist and she cared deeply about people, the planet, and all living things. I was one of those living things that she loved. And I was lucky enough to be her family. 



12 comments:

Unknown said...

Ben, this is a wonderful post, and a lovely way to honor your friend Alison. We all need a friend like her, who accepts us for who we are, no matter what. I'm almost certain she was accepted and loved on the other side of the veil.

Vicki

Homewardbound1 said...

I care about your loss of your friend; and I am grateful to hear about her beautiful soul.

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful Ben. I'm so glad she didn't have to suffer for months/years on end. I'm so sorry for her partner, and all those whose lives she touched that will miss her very important presence on this side of the veil. It sounds like she was a tender mercy from Father to many! ❤️

Anonymous said...

Ben she is a beautiful tender mercy! You blessed one another.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful

The Holtry Family said...

I love this Ben....

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful tribute! I am so sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

I love your posts, Ben.

Grani De said...

You have the most amazing people in your life...
I think it's because you give so freely and you never judge. People are just naturally drawn to you and I feel so blessed to get to meet these unique individuals through you. Thank you. 😊

Anonymous said...

❤️❤️❤️

Anonymous said...

You have a beautiful way of helping me love people I’ve never met. What a lovely soul! I love the image of her being being greeted by your family members.

Anonymous said...

Thank for sharing this beautiful woman with us.