Monday, March 19, 2007


Beloved and I have been watching Six Feet Under on DVD, on loan from a good friend. It is an extraordinary series. It is about a family in the grief-management business, who themselves are confronted with a shocking loss in the first episode. As I watch I find that I love each and every character (thus far, the end of season 1). They are all so real and fragile, authenticly rendered human beings struggling with ultimate questions.

The character who speaks loudest to me at present is David, the closeted younger son who has been the "good one," staying at home to run the funeral business, while older son Nate has been cast in the role of prodigal, living an unconsidered life working at a food coop, far below his potential. Events conspire to bring Nate home again, and throughout season one the brothers struggle to learn to be family and to work together, even as David is struggling with his identity as a gay man.

David is a churchgoer, and at a certain point is invited to be a deacon for his congregation (it is a confusing denomination... I initially thought it was Episcopal, but the nature of "deacon" in the show doesn't jive with what I know either of real life Episcopalians or Roman Catholics). David accepts the offer, both because he is truly devout and because he knows it will be good for business. He remains closeted in this context, however, even as he comes out to other friends and family members. In his closetedness he acts out in dangerous and self-destructive ways.

Eventually David is forced to confront his self-loathing: the body of a young gay man who died as a result of a hate crime is brought in, and David both works with the young man's family and does restorative work on the battered body. Throughout he carries on a conversation with the dead young man, who acts as devil's advocate, exposing David's fears that God does hate him and all "fags" (acolytes of the hateful groups who picket such funerals do show up), that he is destined for hell if he doesn't overcome his gay impulses, and that, in being closeted, he confirms his self-hatred.

One episode ends with David on his knees, at the side of his bed, weeping and praying to God to remove his terrible loneliness. Tears are coming to my eyes as I recall this moment. Tears are coming to my eyes because I remember such moments in my own life.

Several years before my marriage ended I went to seminary. That life change caused me to be in the company, for the first time, of a substantial number of GLBT folks, individuals who were, for the most part, out, and very comfortable with their sexuality. Not only that: these were individuals who were seeking ways to serve God faithfully, whether through ordination or through preparation for other kinds of ministries. Though I was married and committed to making my marriage work, I had already gone through several episodes of being drawn to other women. I had fallen in love with them, though I had never acted on those feelings. And now, I was once again in harm's way.

I should be clear: I did not then and do not now believe that such love and desires are sinful. I believed and believe that God created each of us, loves us, and desires us to live fully and abundantly as we were created. But I was married, and to me, that trumped my other desires. I had made a commitment and I longed to be faithful to that commitment.

There was a woman in my class with whom I became close. She was partnered (with another woman) and also desired to be faithful to that commitment. Eventually I shared with her the story of my life and struggles, shared with her ways I had sought to armor myself, barriers I had erected to either attracting others or being attracted to them. Mostly, I had adopted addictive behaviors to dull the feelings. We talked for a long time, sipping ginger tea into the night and knowing that we'd suffer in class the next day but not caring. Eventually she left, and we lingered at the door.

The next day she came to me between classes and said, I had a dream about you. Really? I said. Yes, she said. And... you need to know, it's not working. It's not working? No, she said, it's not working.

I understood then as I do now that she was referring to my clever strategies for keeping folks at arm's length. Years later I learned that she was referring to her own feelings for me, though that was never revealed at the time. Her words to me were simultaneously welcome and horrifying. Of course, I longed to be seen for who I was. I longed to be loved as the person I was. But I also dreaded that, and fled from it.

And so commenced months of driving back and forth to the seminary, weeping in my car, praying for God to remove these feelings from me, praying that I would find peace in my marriage. Like David in Six Feet Under, I prayed for the terrible loneliness to be removed, the isolation of being apart from myself, as well as from those with whom I experienced life's deepest connection. Like David, I continue to struggle to find a way to authentically be myself, to be the person God created me to be.


KJ said...

You've got a lot of dysfunction to slog through with the Fisher Family before you get to the end, but it's quite worth it for the best montage ending that a show ever had.

Ruth and David are attending a Catholic church. Where he and Keith attend is a little more ambiguous, but its name would seem to indicate Episcopal or Lutheran.

Enjoy the series! More than once it gave me and my partner plenty to think and talk about. We've now gone a bit lighter with "The Vicar of Dibley".

Cecilia said...

kj, I'm not sure I agree about that being a Roman Catholic parish. I don't believe that search committees are involved in the process there-- priests are simply assigned by bishops. That's what led me to believe it was Anglo-Catholic or Episcopal.

...Not that it matters, in the grand scheme of things! Most likely, the writers wrote something without giving real-life denominations much thought. Though I have to say the writers seemed to know church politics first-hand!

Love the good Vicar! I heard/ read a rumor there will be an attempt to do something like it set in the US. I say, bring Dawn French here. She's too wonderful.

Pax, C.

KJ said...

You're probably right regarding the "Fisher Church". Of course, Hollywood is not typically known for its accurate portrayal of any church of any stripe. :-) An Episcopal church in LA with a closeted priest just stretched my imagination a bit too far. I attend an Episcopal church in Seattle, where concerns regarding the sexual orientation of parishioners and clergy is a non-issue for about 95% of the diocese. The 5% for which it is an issue, are busily attempting to extricate themselves less they become defiled.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Cecilia--word on the street is that Kirstie Alley has been engaged to play the U.S. Vicar. Feh.

And I LOVED "Six Feet Under"! Best use of dark humor ever.

I, too, prayed for my commitment to my marriage. I still wonder sometimes if God will ever forgive me for my inability to see it through until the end.

But, as I told my rector, "I could carry the cross of my marriage until my dying day---but if I didn't kill myself before I got there naturally, my marriage was so soul-suckingly lonely that there wouldn't have been enough left of me to go to heaven even if I did."

Today, I pray fervently that the merciful and gracious God that I so desperately want to believe in is the one who is running things...

Cecilia said...

KJ, the same is true of the Episcopal diocese here. There was an article in yesterday's paper about two churches seeking to leave, and the other I don't know how many trying to deal with them with compassion and forbearance. Meanwhile the local bishop released a statement after Tanzania that he will not leave GLBT folks flapping in the wind. Good for him.

Dear, dear WD... I hope you can let go of that guilt. I truly do. I believe that my husband freed us both, and took the fall for it (the local opinion of him-- which I, in my sinfulness fostered-- is that he is responsible for the death of our marriage because of his infidelity). I have such a major, major amends to make to him on that score. I truly believe he did the courageous thing, as I believe you did the courageous thing. He and I-- and you and your ex-husband-- all deserve to live fully, abundantly, as God created us... yes, the merciful and loving God you believ in, who I believe is running things.

Kirstie Alley??? Oh dear. Bring me Dawn.

Pax, C.

Dennis said...

We JUST finished watching the very last episode of the last season of six feet under about a week ago. (We started sometime in January with season one. I'm not really a tv person but we saw the whole show - watching about an episode a night after we went to bed. We never once watched one of those 60 episodes in the living room!)

I really liked the series.

I never really liked Nate. The problem is, my partner really identified with the character Nate, which I found out after I really criticized Nate. He thought I was doing some backhanded criticism of him, which caused much conversation one evening.

Supposedly the Fishers are attending an Episcopal Church. A couple of times David actually calls himself an Episcopalian in later seasons.
Which drives me crazy, because the writers must only know how a Baptist church is run. In the show they call the vestry "the deacons" and when David is elected to the church "board" he is called a "deacon". They made such an effort to get all of the tiny details right about the funeral business, but never once asked an Episcopalian to explain what we mean by deacon?

OH and one time David has to give a "devotion" at a service where he stands up and reads a passage of scripture and then comments on it at the main Sunday morning service - that was too much. Kind of a lector meets bible study leader. That gave me fits. They couldn't just ask an Episcopalian to explain our services?

Anyway, loved the show. And having just finished watching the entire thing it is still on my mind.

Stick with it all of the way through. I thought it was really good to watch and think through the plot and characters. Go look up episode guides on the show's website, too. They list all of the music in the episode and there is a mock obituary for each death in the episode.

We have now moved on to the American version of Queer as Folk - we are a few episodes in. It doesn't quite stand up to six feet under but it'll do.

Dennis said...

oh and thanks for the nice comment over on my blog, by the way.

KJ said...


As Dennis points out, the Six Feet website is great, but don't look too closely at obituaries or synopses unless you don't mind spoilers.

Dennis said...

KJ: When are you going to join the rest of us and put up a blog, by the way?

Oh, and Cecilia, I'm adding your site to my blogroll.

KJ said...


Why set up my own blog when I can mooch off of everybody else? It's much less work that way.

By the way, Lent into Easter is fabulous at St. Mark's. You just may want to float over and check it out.

more cows than people said...

hooray! you've joined the ranks of six feet under fans! i miss my time with the fisher family. SUCH a good show. we finished watching this past summer. sigh. so, so, so good. relish it, enjoy it, soak it up...

i actually think the show deals with religion and religious leadership issues with more integrity than most things on t.v., but i'm not an Episcopalian so that could explain my general acceptance of what I saw. THOUGH i did the think the devotion thing in worship was RIDICULOUS.

wait till you meet the rabbi...

keep us posted on your thoughts as you watch.

Cecilia said...

Thank you all for your comments. I just knew the Fishers had to have lots of fans of the theologically reflective sort...

It is so good to hear from all of you. I am so grateful for this very real community.

Pax, C.