I am Sean Kennedy's mother, Elke Kennedy, and I am reaching out to other moms who might or might not accept of the fact that their son or daughter is gay. Most of you do not know what it is like to receive a phone call like I got at 4:30 a.m. telling me that something had happened to my child.
The worst thing every mother dreads hit me two days after Mother's Day in 2007. On that day, May 16, 2007, my youngest son, Sean, was taken away from me by hate because of his sexual orientation. When I got to the hospital that morning, I had the sickening feeling in my stomach that this was serious. When I finally got to see my son, he was already on life support. His hands were so cold; I wanted to warm him up. I told him that everything would be all right now, because Mom was here. I prayed to God to please let him be OK, and to let me take Sean's place, because he hadn't been able to live his life. Of course, it doesn't work that way, and we hoped and waited for the next 17 hours that Sean would be all right. But it wasn't meant to be that way. We gathered at Sean's bed in a state of complete exhaustion and shock as we were told that he was brain-dead. Sixty young people had been with us at the hospital all day and night, telling me so many stories about Sean, about how they loved him and needed him. Now I had to go out there and tell these young people that their friend had died, but that he would live on in others, because he'd donated his organs. Each of the kids got to go back and say their goodbyes. It was so difficult to hear their goodbyes and see all their emotions.
Now I had to plan his memorial service, and our church told us that we could have the service there. Then, that Friday, after everything had been communicated to family and friends and the newspaper, we received a phone call telling us that the elders of the church had decided that we could not have the service there after all, because Sean was gay. After many phone calls back and forth, they allowed us to have the service there in the end. However, afterwards, we were no longer welcome at the church.
My heart was broken, and now I have an empty place in my heart. Mother's Day has a whole different meaning for me. As I've celebrated Mother's Day with my other children since losing Sean, I've felt incomplete and sad. If I didn't have other children, I probably would never celebrate this day again. I wonder how mothers who discard their children because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender can celebrate Mother's Day knowing that their child is alive but choosing to pretend otherwise. And here I am, one of many mothers who have lost a child, many to the same hate that took my son, or to suicide, who can barely make it out of bed or stop crying because they miss their child so terribly. It doesn't seem fair.
After my son's murder I started a foundation called Sean's Last Wish, to educate the public on how hate, bullying, violence, and religious bigotry lead to beatings, suicide, and murder, and what people can do to change that. We especially work with young people. Since I started this organization I have "adopted" thousands of young people and adults whose parents discarded them. I am there if they need someone to talk to, or if they just need a hug, because everyone should be able to call his or her mom. For all those kids I have become like a second mom, one who loves them unconditionally as I loved my son Sean and as I love my other children.
I have a huge family now, and I get many phone calls, emails, and cards on Mother's Day -- and that helps. But nothing can ever take the place of my son Sean, whom I loved with every bone in my body, and whom I miss terribly every minute of every day.
On this Mother's Day, I ask you to stand up with me so that no mother ever has to bury her child, no mother has to lose her child to hate and violence, and no mother has to fight for justice for her child.