There are some days in a normal life span that are marked as special. These are days that the people who lived them will always remember. Often its because of a disaster, like when the Challenger exploded or 9/11 happened, but sometimes its because, against all expectations, something wonderful has happened and you know youll want to put that memory somewhere safe where you can treasure it the rest of your life.
By KELLY LUCK
Special to The Star
Take Wednesday, for example. When the word came down that the Supreme Court had not only gutted DOMA but would not be superseding the lower court decision on Proposition 8, it was almost too much to believe. Short of actually declaring all state-level bans unconstitutional, this was about the best outcome we in the LGBT community could hope for.
As a group of us gathered downtown last night to celebrate, there was a sense in the air of history being made. Old friends and new greeted each other, couples Ive known for years, some of whom have been together for decades, were giddy with excitement. There was a feeling that this marked the moment where we turned the corner, where the momentum was so great it could not help but carry us through all the way to the end. And we were there to be witness to it.
As I wandered through the crowd after the rally, I found my thoughts kept going back to Kassie, and how overjoyed she would have been to see this day. Kassie was a born scrapper, and in the years we had been together she had organized, marched, canvassed, the whole bit. We were as active as a lesbian couple in a small town in the middle of the state could be, often driving to Jefferson City or Springfield to take part in lobbying and other events.
In the winter of 2009, she began to feel ill. At first we thought it was just a cold she couldnt shake, but then things started happening. She started to get weak, tired. Her neck and right arm swelled up. We took her to the urgent care clinic as a cook with no health plan, it was all she could afford but they had no idea. I talked to my employers at the time, but since A) we werent married, and B) they didnt offer domestic partner benefits, there didnt seem a way to get her coverage. I begged them to change their policy, offered to pay 100 percent of her premium myself but they simply would not change their minds.
I remember the drive home that night. I was sitting in the passenger side, trying to decide how to break the news to her when I noticed we were in the wrong lane. Kassies face had gone blank, her hands trembling. I grabbed the steering wheel and yanked us off the road, up a hill, through a slalom of utility poles and finally brought us to a halt. By some miracle we managed to avoid hitting anyone or anything, but the car was totaled. It was then I decided that she was going to a specialist, if I had to spend the rest of my life paying for it.
The cancer was already stage 4 by the time the doctors in Columbia finalized their diagnosis. After that, it was only a matter of time. We got the word on St. Patricks Day, and by August she was gone. Just like that. Someone as vibrant and alive as anyone Id ever known, snuffed out in a matter of months. And all because we were legally strangers and I could not protect her.
Every day I live with this. What if I had tried harder? What if I had made other arrangements, or taken her to the hospital first thing? What if, by a miracle, I had been able to put her on the health plan and get her to a doctor in time? I dont know. I never will. What I do know is there is no hell quite like watching the love of your life wither away and die, and being prevented from doing anything about it.
Last night I walked around Ilus W. Davis Park, greeting and congratulating my friends. I watched couples walk hand-in-hand, joyful and without fear, and I confess I envied them. Even now sometimes I catch myself reaching out for a hand that is no longer there. Sure, they are still constitutionally strangers in this state, but I know it is a matter of time, now. And I earnestly hope and pray every one of them lives to see that day.
The road has been a long one, and theres more to go; I know this all too well. And I know that there will be the usual debates over what is right, what is natural, what is just. But I still find myself believing against all odds that we are essentially a fair-minded people and that, circuitous as the road may be, it always leads toward justice. Yesterday, we came closer to a day in which no one will have to go through what I have. And wherever you stand on the politics of the situation, in the end, that has to be a good thing.
Kelly Luck works in information technology. She lives in Kansas City. To reach her, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.