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Why Dignity is Important

Peggy Burns PictureBy Peggy Burns, DignityUSA Operations Manager

As Operations Manager, I get many phone calls and emails, some asking for information about the organization or looking for affirming churches in their area, others sending surveys, and some wrong numbers looking for pet food products. Recently, one phone call really made an impact and I would like to share it with you.

Ruth called asking if I knew of a priest who would say the funeral mass for her mother’s partner. Ruth is Jewish and the dying woman a Catholic. She had asked a priest to say the mass, but he refused because her mom and partner were lesbians in a committed relationship. Ruth had no idea where to turn to for help. She found our number and thought she would give us a try.

I asked Ruth where they were located. As soon as she said Long Island, I knew who to call for help. Honour Maddock, National Board Member, and her partner Kathleen, live in Long Island and I figured if anyone could help, it was Honour and Kathleen. I gave Ruth their number, telling her to say Peggy sent her. Honour called the next day to say they were playing phone tag, but she would keep me posted.

The following weekend I attended a National Board Meeting in Washington, DC. I saw Honour and she filled me in on what was happening to Ruth and her family. They had a hard time connecting with Ruth, but when they did they had a name of a priest friend for her to call. Meanwhile, Ruth has already met the priest and told him her story. He was more than willing to help. And he was the priest they were going to recommend.

Ruth’s mother’s partner died that week and she had a Catholic burial.

I received an email a few weeks later from Ruth’s mother, letting me know how thankful she was for our presence and how kind we were during this difficult situation. She said, “I just wanted to personally thank you for your blind love and support during this time.” Ruth also wrote, and was kind enough to send a donation in honor of Kathleen & Honour.

Not all my calls are for this immediate of a situation, but I am so grateful for the chapters and members of Dignity who are always there when I need them. Many chapters took such calls during the early years of the AIDS crisis and we still field them today for different reasons. This is only one example of why our presence is so important.