I want to share a story of my last visit with Senator Inouye. He hosted my husband Kyle and myself in D.C. during pride month this past June and he and Irene (his wife) took us to the White House for an LGBT Pride reception. I think he got a kick at being able to share that with Kyle and me and he was actually one of the few Senators to attend that night. He and Irene found us across the crowded room and made their way to us and it was clear they had trekked out on our behalf because this was our first time at the White House and the first time that such a gay pride event had been held there. It was just weeks after "Don't Ask Don't Tell" had been repealed and there were decorated service members in their dress whites with their partners and the whole thing was very special and moving to Kyle and myself and I know that's why he and Irene were there. I found that to be one of the loveliest gestures anyone had ever afforded me.
That morning before the event we went to visit him in the massive Senate President Pro Tem's "official" office at The Capitol, and he made a funny face when we walked in slack jawed at the grandeur of the room. As it was his style to joke he rolled his eyes and said, "This is where we entertain the 'fancy people,' heads of state who think they matter." He spent an hour with us talking about everything from the election to gay marriage. Here was this 88-year-old man speaking as if he were one of my 21-year-old progressive friends. We hung on his every word.
He told us about one of his gay buddies during World War II who was the biggest bad-ass and had died in their first battle. At some point someone had said to the Senator, "Why are you friends with him? You know he's that way," to which the Senator replied "I'd rather have him at my side in battle than any of you, have you ever heard of Alexander the Great? He was that way too and is history's greatest warrior."
Than he got a tear in his eye and with the tip of his his cane he pointed to the floor and said, "And when I go I will be laid to rest right next to him, my friend."
The nation has no idea yet what a great leader and cornerstone of our democracy we have lost this week. Because it was also his style to not call too much attention to himself, he tended to flow under the radar of D.C. politics. Rest in peace Senator. You were a great man for all the ages and I hope we can carry your example of bravery, integrity and patriotism.