Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gays and Lesbians Getting Married? Haven't They Suffered Enough?

Michael Shaw really hit the nail on the head with his March 1, 2004 New Yorker Cartoon. The cartoon captures all of my ambivalence, confusion, fear, and outrage about gay marriage. Marriage hasn't worked all that well for straight couples, how will it work for the rest of us?

My ambivalence stems from how I feel about marriage. I firmly believe that if you and your sweetie want to get married that you should do it. I'm not convinced that marriage should be the norm among lesbian and gay couples. Ron and I have had a very settled existence for a couple of decades, but neither he nor I consider us married. Our relationship is not like most married relationships. Our commitment and faithfulness to each other doesn't depend on sexual fidelity. And yet, I'm quite sure that he and I are as settled and rooted in our relationship as any married couple. I believe that our relationship deserves equal respect too in our society. I also believe that Ron's and my relationship is an important part of the social fabric - we care for each other. We watch out for each other and for our chosen families. But I would not want to call us married, because marriage does not fit the kind of family, and the kind of relationships that I have.

Like the couple in the cartoon, I'm confused: why do gay people want to get married? Is it for the benefits? Is it for the respect? Is it for the shower gifts? What's behind the movement for same-sex marriage? Why is it so important that it has taken over the LGBT political agenda? Yes, the Defense of Marriage Act is an odious piece of legislation that needs to be repealed. Beyond that, many of the benefits of marriage can (and will) be granted by the states, and eventually the Federal government and the courts will follow suit. As for respect, you only get it by taking it. Respect is not a compelling reason to get married. That sentimental altar moment is not a compelling reason to get married, either. On the other hand, if the public commitment before the state is what you need to confirm your feelings for another human being, I guess you're going to have to get married.

I have fears about same-sex marriage, too. I think it strikes straight at some of the defining mores of our gay male culture. Will the brave new world of married gay male culture stigmatize men who do not seek out permanent relationships, but are quite happy with their sex buds and a circle of friends? This is a serious question because out gay male culture since Stonewall has celebrated not only gay sex, but a liberating notion about sexuality itself - that sex with others is a virtue, and that sex with many different partners is valuable. Yes, AIDS devastated our community, but we know now how to have sex that doesn't spread HIV or hepatitis or syphilus. We can enjoy sex without the constraints of marriage and outside our relationships - if that's what we want. We can enjoy being who we are and what we feel. I fear that same-sex marriage will so change our views of ourselves and others that we will lose an authentic value of what it means to be a gay male.

Finally, the arguments swirling around same-sex marriage are outrageous. The world as we know it won't end when everyone can tie the knot. Massachusetts hasn't been smitten by the rod of God. At last report, the seven plagues have not leveled the God-fearing people of Iowa or their highest court. Plainly, same-sex marriage has not undermined traditional marriage, no matter what the opponents to same-sex marriage would have you believe. People have legitimate fears about religious practice, and fears about the public sanctioning of homosexuality. But to use those reasons to oppose same-sex marriage is wrong. In the first instance, the First Amendment prohibits the government from forcing religious institutions to perform same-sex marriages, or for that matter, even letting homosexuals in the front doors of their churches. In the second instance, the state does not have a straight version of marriage and a gay version of marriage. It only has marriage.

So, I'll remain ambivalent on this issue.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Forty years ago, today, the homosexuals of New York City fought back. It wasn't the first time that gay people fought the police, but for all sorts of reasons, the Stonewall riots captured the gay imagination and consciousness and started us on the road to full civic participation in American society. No mean feat for a beaten up bulldyke and some drag queens who inspired a quiet crowd to get ugly and riot.

More power to them.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gee, It's Been a While

Ron at his desk

This is a picture that I took of Ron a couple of days ago. I fiddled with it, but am really pleased with the way it turned out. It's almost artistic!

The problem with having a blog is that it is a beast that always has to be fed. I sometimes don't do that too well. Part of it is that the daily detritus of my life doesn't always seem to merit any report. Part of it is general laziness.

For the record, I'm continuing to heal. Simone, one of the physical therapists, wasn't too thrilled to learn that I had been walking up the Wheaton Metro escalator, so I told her not to tell anyone. The knee is not swollen very much at all, and I'm now doing strengthening exercises. Last week's inflammation seemed to be caused by irritation to my right leg's iliotibial band, but exercises to stretch that seem to be working well.

Yep, in other medical news, I made it back to my urologist. He checked out my plumbing and ordered a CT IVP. He doesn't seem to think there is anything to worry about, but is a little mystified why my penis sometimes bleeds after oral sex. That makes at least two of us.

I did go square dancing on Thursday night. It was an ABC dance, and Ronnie and I, injured though we were, danced. I felt it on Friday, but not too bad, and I was careful. It's another activity that I'm not reporting to Gretchen, my physical therapist. We had five visitors. Kent and Brian were calling. We'll have other ABC dances in July and August.

Yesterday, I braised some country pork ribs. I haven't fixed them since I was a kid. They came out very tasty. Next, I want to successfully fix them barbequed (slow-cooked) on the grill. It presents some logistical difficulties, but I feel up to it.

Finally, Mark Sanford, you've made my week. Every time I hear your name, I can't help but giggle. The depth and breadth of your hypocrisy, deceit, and mis-government takes the cake for Republican scandals this week. But I'm sure the GOP can do one better next week.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

This Old Bod

Well, not that old, but creaky, sometimes. I had knee surgery nearly two weeks ago. Initially, I felt no pain. The surgeon had me on naproxen, which kept the swelling in check, and I iced the knee throughout the day. Naproxen is a powerful NSAID, and it upsets my stomach, but it's very effective as an anti-inflammatory and kept the swelling in check.

I finished the naproxen on Saturday. Sunday I went to the Pride festival downtown, and walked too much. My knee and leg swelled up. I've been using ibuprofen since then, and it seems to help, but it's not quite as effective.

I also have slowed down on my activity, a bit, EXCEPT for the physical therapy. I started PT five days after surgery. The therapist has steadily increased the amount and number of exercises. They are challenging, on the verge of painful. The therapist told me that I have to push my performance, but not to the point of injury. I'm continuing to ice my leg three times a day, too.

I had the stitches removed yesterday (and covered with steri-strips). I'm continuing with PT for another couple of weeks or longer.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Pot at the End of the Gay Rainbow

If we can't adequately take care of our parents, how do gay people expect to take care of themselves as they grow very old?

I'm now of the age that when I get together with friends (who are also usually around my age), talk often strays to taking care of infirm parents. The stories often are not happy. These are not tales of Mom and Dad taking off for a Caribbean Cruise or a drive in the Great Smokies. More likely these are plaints about Medicare coverage, short-term memory loss, chronic pain, and the oxygen tether.

In my immediate circle, our surviving parents are in fairly good physical health, considering that all of them are on the sunset side of 80. All of them have their aches and pains. One suffers from COPD. Another has had TIAs that caused memory loss and anxiety. Another has some signs of chronic depression. The common thread to all of these elderly people is that they are becoming increasingly isolated from family, friends, and caretakers.

Their isolation isn't deliberate, but as physical infirmity increases, the task of seeing other people, getting out of the house, shopping, getting one's hair done becomes onerous to the point that our parents just don't get out anymore. Most of them also have the frame of mind of not wanting to bother other people, so family and friends don't visit as often as needed. Finally, the cost of caregiving, and general maintenance of their homes poses financial strain on some so that repairs, or modifications (to accommodate their infirmities) don't get done.

I don't have any solutions to this. I know, though, that our parents' caregivers have a tremendous burden, and at the end of the day, our parents' needs are still not met. And it's not about money, either. Most of our parents have financial means to take care of themselves reasonably well. The real problems are that they've outlived their social network of friends, and that their families are often scattered and far away. They've experienced creeping isolation for months and years, and wake up one day to find out they are pretty much housebound and very dependent on one or more caregivers who also have busy lives of their own.

This is all prologue. My friends and I are getting older, and we've all seen the golden years up close and personal with our parents. What's our pot at the end of our gay rainbow?

Most of my gay friends have the financial means to live to the end of very long lives, the current financial mess notwithstanding. We've seen our parents grow old, and the solutions to their situation are variations on the theme of duct tape, twine, and rubber bands. The financial framework has worked okay, if not quite well, but the social component has not been particularly good at all for our parents or their caregivers (often one of our sisters, or maybe one of us). What lessons have we learned, and how do we make the very old phase of our lives gold rather than dross?

Gay people need to think as seriously about their social future as they do their financial future. Most of us will not have family to take care of us when we are very old, so the threat of isolation for us looms even larger than with our parents. We will also probably live longer than our parents, so the isolation may be longer and deeper, too.

Here are some needs. I'm not sure how to get there, but perhaps out of this, a necessary discussion about the kind of old age that we want can begin.

  • Financial independence that will last to the end of our lives.
  • How ever we plan to retire and be financially independent, we should definitely have a rational plan that has a reasonable chance of success. Financial planning is key, considering that many of us will end up living very long lives, far beyond the time that we stop working. Working with a financial planner, and mapping out a financial future is our responsibility, and the first step to finding the pot at the end of the rainbow.

  • Housing that meets our physical and social needs.
  • Many of my friends are already considering housing that meets their physical needs. We're talking about single story homes here. Stairs become increasingly incompatible with old age. Of course, other considerations include wheelchair accessibility, ease of bathing, and dressing, and means of food preparation as we grow older. Beyond the physical, I also want to live in a community where other gay people live. I don't want to retire to a community or an assisted care facility where I could not live my life as I want to. And I don't want caregivers who would in any way object to my life as a gay man.

  • An assisting social network that will help us remain in our homes, and keep us in a larger social world.
  • We need a corps of elderly gay boy scouts, or its or moral equivalent. A major burden of elderly people is getting around, getting to the store, to a doctor's appointment, or to the movies, or lunch with a friend. Chores around the house are a challenge: housecleaning is a strenuous activity. Finally, we may need a daily call or reminder to take our medications. The most important part of this is face-to-face human contact. It helps stave off social isolation. Somehow we need to develop a community that cares about its members.

  • A means to keep us mentally and physically engaged with the world appropriate for our mental and physical abilities.
  • Mental and physical fitness are a personal responsibility. Clearly, if we don't use it, we lose it, and that's especially true as we get very old. We need the means, institutions, and our own devices to stay fit mentally and physically. I'm not sure how to do it, maybe it means having a dog, and working in the garden, and doing a daily crossword, but we need to work at keeping engaged with our world.

Have I covered all the bases here? What's your take on Grey and Gay, and what's the pot you're looking for at the end of the rainbow?

I hope you join this discussion. I think it's critical for the gay community to recognize the scope of this issue, and start talking now about needs, plans, and institutional/community structures that can help LGBT people have a secure and happy old age. Sooner or later, if we live long enough, we'll all get old. Let's be ready for it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I'm Bored

I'm sitting at my computer, icing my knee, listening to NPR. The knee hurts more than it used, to, but nothing that I wouldn't expect from a body part that has three stitched up boreholes in it. That was a plug for sympathy, but I think I've pretty much milked as much human kindness as I can from this situation.

I'm walking better, but it causes a lot of wear and tear on my hip, and on my other knee. All our body parts were meant to work together without any slackers, and when my right knee takes a few days off, my left knee squawks. I am amazed at how the body compensates for its aches, pains, and inconveniences. We are walking marvels, no doubt about it.

Ron showed me the pictures that the doctor took when he put a camera inside my knee, shades of Fantastic Voyage. The image of the meniscal tear looked a lot like frayed canvas. The picture of the surgery shows the frayed edges trimmed away from the cartilage. These are some of the most intimate pictures I've seen of myself, from the inside.

Today, Ron's taking me to see the surgeon. Afterwards, it's physical therapy. I've been pretty good about following his instructions, so far. The main physical complaint right now is some swelling on the knee, but the icing really does help. I do that three times a day. The doctor also has me doing leg lifts several times a day. The pain is very slight, mainly what I have is a leg that feels tired, and some sympathetic pain from other body parts.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Problem of Homosexual Stigma

Yesterday, I was cruising around Facebook, and happened upon a group, Building connections to protect tradition (sic) marriage when the day comes again. Today, I notice when I went back to the group, that the post I was most interested in has been removed. Oh well. This site was started by a Brigham Young University alum, and has many Latter-day Saint members on it. Most of the posters appear to be deeply religious church members.

The removed post was part of a string, where one poster (who was not LDS) mentioned that some of the language and content of the other posters wasn't especially Christian or religious, i.e., the language was intemperate and could be characterized as being either bigoted or hateful. Another poster responded very quickly that the remark was a little hypocritical because, "Gays hate religion."

To be fair, the page creator respectfully requests posters to be mindful of their speech and to be respectful of others. Here's his complete statement:

This group is just to fortify the social networks for when the time comes to do what is necessary in protecting traditional marriage, whether it be to write state officials or rally the vote. We need to be passive to not fuel the anger right now as it is a sensitive issue at this time. Remember we are to love all and respect even when we are not respected.

Just an aside, not all gay people hate religion, but for those who do, they have cause for their feelings. Most religious groups kick out gay people, when the groups find out a member is gay. Religious groups rob gay people of their religious life, the groups hijack gay people's spirituality, and many groups condemn gay people to an unhappy, life (and death) in hell. Furthermore, the speech that many religious groups use is deceptive, if you hate the sin, in the context of homosexuality, you are hating the sinner as well. The speech from the pulpit can be a huge burden to bear. It often incites other members to shun or to even commit spiritual, if not physical, violence on gay people. I know this from my own experience as a gay man. It has happened to me, and to many of my gay friends.

While being gay (or as many straight people say, "homosexual"), can indeed be a problem for gay people, it's also a problem for people who follow any creed that purports to believe "Love your neighbor as yourself." The Christian version of this commandment is

Jesus said unto him Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:37-40, KJV

Most religious faiths have similar formulations of this: Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you, or the affirmative of the same.

I invite religious people who disagree with me about the nature of my sexual orientation (I am gay, I am homosexual) to put their feet in my shoes. Believe me, I've already put my feet in your shoes. I really have. How does it feel to have someone say to you that you hate them and what they believe. That's a foul charge smearing all gay people. Honestly, we don't hate religion or religious people. I do, however, get irritated by people who let their sometimes blind belief trump science, common sense, and the Holy Scriptures, and then proceed to carry on with intemperate speech about my sexual orientation.

The problem is stigma. It all started 5,000 years ago with, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:13 KJV. That scripture and six other "clobber" scriptures pretty much have molded traditional Christian (and Jewish) thinking about homosexuality. These scriptures are almost always ripped out of their historical, religious, and cultural contexts, and applied willy-nilly to gay people. One of the underlying characteristics of bigotry is that the people engaging in it (from its gentlest to its most rabid manifestations) can rattle off justifications for their behavior (clobber verses), but often do not consider the context of the justifications. They do not have a deep understanding of their behavior, and over time, it becomes a part of their irrational belief.

[A personal confession, here - I also have irrational belief and engage in irrational behavior. I have my own prejudices which probably border on bigotry. Just because I disagree with most religions' views of homosexuality in no way exempts me from experiencing the human condition, part of which is to engage in irrational belief and irrational behavior.]

Many religious people let their irrational beliefs about homosexuality color their feelings about gay people. That coloring is called stigma. Your stigmatization of me effectively makes me less a person than you, and by inference less than your humanity. I'm not a real person in your eyes. I know these may be difficult words for you to read. And I know that you may feel offended, disgusted, saddened, or angry. I know that you may not believe my words. I also know, that you have felt stigma because of your religious beliefs and practices. You are marked and mocked by other people (like me) because of what you believe. I know that you have felt emotional pain, ostracism, and conflict with the outside world because of your beliefs. I know how much that hurts.

I invite you to examine some of the stigmatization that I live with, stuff that I hear and experience all the time. What follows isn't pretty, and may seem offensive, but again, I ask you to get into my shoes, and my skin, and be open to that experience. Please.

I am a homosexual who really deserves less than straight people. This stigma is stated in explicit terms with the phrase, Gays want special rights, not human rights. When a person utters this phrase, the first thing it does is rob gay people of their humanity, because the speaker is saying that gay people are not human. It implies that special rights are privileges, and privileges that "normal" (straight) people don't have. Here are the "human rights" that straight people regard as their own (any may not even think about): freedom from bullying and violence, non-discrimination in housing and employment, the freedom to love (and marry) someone, the right to speak out on public issues. Here are the "special privileges" to which homosexuals aspire: freedom from bullying and violence, non-discrimination in housing and employment, the freedom to love (and marry) someone, the right to speak out on public issues. I know this, because I am a gay man who aspires to these human rights.

Why do I feel stigmatized by this attitude of feeling less than straight people? Let me give you a few For Examples from my own life.

  • Example 1. I listened to Fag Jokes at work for many years, afraid to speak up, because I felt that my co-workers would think less of me.
  • Example 2. I couldn't be open with co-workers about my partner, or about my life outside of work. Where other people would come in and tell me about their weekend, all I could do was to say, "Fascinating!" I was mentally and socially constrained by my stigma.
  • Example 3. When I finally did tell a colleague that I was gay, he promptly went to Employee Resources and claimed that I was offending him, and that he no longer wanted to work with me. (When he asked my about my weekend, I got up the courage to say that I had gone to a gay bar. That's it! He was totally disgusted) Needless to say, experiences like this confirmed the stigma.
  • Example 4. I was fired from another job because I knew two other gay people at the company, who ratted on me to Human Resources/Legal. The two gay people were afraid that I'd tell other employees that they were gay. See how insidious this stigmatization grows? While I had no intention of telling anybody that anybody else was gay, another gay person ratted on me, and I got fired. That was difficult to take.

This particular stigma has real consequences, affects real people, and stunts the lives of others. It is a very uncomfortable stigma with which to live.

Gay people deserve what happens to them, because they choose to live that way. This is a difficult stigma to shake, because deep down, many religious people appear to feel that homosexuality is such an immoral aberration that gay people couldn't possibly choose to live that way.

First of all, if you read the sacred texts with an open heart and a mind wanting to know the truth, and you study the historical, cultural, and religious context of those texts, you'll find that the assertion of immorality often made by religious people isn't nearly so cut and dried as many of those people assert it. So please, I pray, reread the "clobber verses" and study them with an inquiring mind wanting to know your Creator's will.

Secondly, so what if I did choose to live the homosexual life? Democrats choose to live the "Democrat" life. Baptists choose to live the "Baptist" life. I am guessing that part of the reason the stigma of choice remains so important to religious, straight people is because of their misunderstanding and demonization of gay sexual practices. Admittedly, some of those practices are pretty weird. But, you don't hear gay people talking about straight people choosing to be straight, and you don't usually find gay people critiquing straight sexual practices (Dan Savage, aside). Why? Because sexual practice is in the realm of private conduct, and it should stay there. Frankly, gay sex is very similar to straight sex, more than either gay or straight people want to think. Straight people have straight sex with other straight people all the time, and don't get accused that they are choosing to be straight.

Finally, choice is a curious word. Let's put it in the context of a gay person, "choosing" to be gay. Here's what that person is often choosing: opprobrium from family and former friends, bullying and physical violence, and social ostracism, to name a few things. Think about it: people don't choose to live a life like this. Instead, a life like this often finds gay people because we have an intrinsic and innate need to behave congruently with our feelings and our attractions, just as straight people have an intrinsic and innate need to behave congruently with their feelings and attractions. Gay people don't choose to be gay any more than straight people choose to be straight. Any other conclusion is unsupportable by scientific, cultural, and moral evidence.

Here's a couple of examples of the affect of this stigmatization in my own personal life:

  • Example 5. Because I chose to be gay and deserved what I got, a man stopped his car in an intersection, accosted me in the crosswalk, started kicking and beating me, screamed that I was a f**king faggot, told me he was going to kill me, jammed me against the stanchion of a traffic signal, well, you get the point. The only thing that saved me was a straight couple who ran up the sidewalk after my assailant. He jumped in his car, and sped off. I ended up with black eyes, broken ribs, and multiple bruises. I'm convinced my assailant meant to murder me. I deserved all of that because I chose to be gay. And what was my gay choice that day? I was walking down the sidewalk in a gay neighborhood, wearing a leather jacket, on my way to buy a birthday card for my five-year old son.
  • Example 6. I was in a Bible study at work. The leader of the Bible study asked me to leave the group, saying that because I was homosexual, it was very disturbing and disruptive to the other members of the group. But if I repented, and chose not to be gay (meaning, I guess, that I was choosing to be straight), that after a period of repentance and forgiveness, I could rejoin the group. The affect of this stigmatization on me was devastating. In effect, God was kicking me out. The leader, a well-meaning Christian was robbing me of a rich spiritual experience, and was trying to extort my soul. He was doing it out of his best intentions because he knew that homosexuality is a choice. Except that it isn't, and his behavior broke my heart.

I ended up with broken bones and a broken heart because I chose to be gay.

God Hates Fags! This particular stigmatization comes out of a certain mean-spirited fundamentalism masquerading as human kindness. Yes, I know that Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church are extreme caricatures of faith, but I don't see a lot of religious people, like you, protesting their hateful speech and vitriolic phlegm. Go to Fred's web site, and read and see gay stigmatization at its most reprehensible. It's disgusting. It's hateful. It's an Old Testament God (who wrote Leviticus) untempered by the life, acts, and teachings of his Son, Jesus Christ. What Would Jesus Do? It certainly would not be what Fred Phelps does.

One of the reasons I ended up with broken bones and a broken heart, (not to mention fired from my job), is because good religious people believe what Fred Phelps teaches. These good people believed that God Hates Fags, so they could do evil to me. And I believed, at one time in my life, that God Hates Fags, and I hated myself, too. Stigma hurts. It hurts those who practice stigma, and it hurts those who carry its burden. In fact stigma makes religious people less Godly, and it has the power to make gay people afraid, injured, friendless, and unemployed.

Thank you for spending some time in my shoes, well boots, actually. I'm grateful that you gave me the opportunity.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Spring Fling

As most of you know, Ron and I took a trip through the Deep South. It included major stops in Alabama, Mississippi, and an interesting look at a Kentucky town, and a Cave of Mystery. (I just wrote that to build suspense.) I also had an opportunity to eat a fair amount of barbeque, an endeavor that deserves a trip solely devoted to that task.

It took us two days to get to the gay campground which hosted the CMEN (California Men Enjoying Nature) Gathering. About a hundred guys showed up at one time or another, including Ron and me. We had a very gay week during which Ron's sore throat got worse, and I got a sinus infection, but that does not stop intrepid travelers.

After the gathering, we head down to Florida and drove through the Panhandle, then crossed Alabama's Panhandle, and ended up in Mississippi. We stayed our first night in Mississippi in Hattiesburg. We had a bodacious meal at the local Outback. I tell you, even though the restaurant is a chain, we got the full Mississippi treatment. I was impressed. The next day we arrived in Southaven, Mississippi, and visited with Ron's Mom and sister (and dog) for a few days.

From the northwest corner of Mississippi, we headed around Memphis, and crossed Tennessee, south to north, passing Bucknsort along the way. That night we stayed in Bowling Green, Kentucky. We had a memorable evening in Bowling Green. We walked around the town square, and had a good meal right on the square. From there we took a walk toward the university, and ran into some students playing game on the sidewalk. The game, of course, is Kentucky Cornhole, which is very different from Idaho Cornhole. It helps to be drunk when playing this game (which is why the college kids were doing okay at it). We weren't, but threw a couple of beanbags just for the bragging rights of doing some cornholing in Kentucky.

One of the students suggested a walking tour, which we took. Lots of pretty houses, but a very quiet town.

The next day we headed up to Mammoth Caves. Wow. What a big hole! It's the largest cave in the world: 367 miles on six levels, or something like that. We had a Kentucky native who loves this cave as a tour guide. He's truly an asset to the Park Service. It was a country pleasure hearing his stories, and a wonderful tour.

The rest of that day, we high-tailed it to Ashland, on the eastern edge of the state, and stayed at yet another Fairfield Inn. We stayed at a number of them on our trip. Moderately priced. Great beds. Nice people.

It's no longer Fly Over Land; it's Drive Thru Land, not just for the KFCs and Burger Kings, but for the righteous experience of seeing the beautiful land unfold in front of you, mile after mile. It's about as close as I'm going to get to heaven.