In the summer of 2013, a doctor died in Memphis named Sheldon Korones. He was 89 years old and had dedicated his life to fighting infant mortality in that city.
He was once asked, what gives you the most pleasure? He answered, “Turning blue babies pink.”
Brett Trapp relates that story on his blog, “Blue Babies Pink” (I listened to the podcast version). Brett is a gay Christian who grew up as the son of a conservative Baptist preacher in the south, and the blog explores what that was like and relates his coming out journey.
When I heard Dr. Korones’ answer, I started crying. Distracted by the stereotypical colors of gender, I’d missed the significance of the blog’s title until that moment.
As a straight, cisgender woman, I’ve never had to struggle with so many of the things Brett and my LGBTQ friends have had to face. I listen to their stories and I am heartbroken, awed, and humbled.
But I do know what it is for a part of who you are to be invisible, smothered by contexts that don’t know how to acknowledge who you are and don’t particularly want to. And I know what it is to face rejection and pain so deep that part of you dies, because it truly is too much to bear. Sometimes that isn’t even a choice – particularly when we are children.
Sometimes it’s how anything at all survives.
I also know what it can take to let yourself come to life again. The pain is still there, waiting to devour you, and beginning to come alive again means feeling it. All of it. It can look endless and impossible. Unthinkable even.
But there’s no other way to life but through it, and for me at least, there came a point (a series of them actually) when finding life was worth it, even if it killed me.
Too many don’t make it through.
There is one thing stronger than death.
Love is stronger than death.
As I have walked alongside LGBTQ friends, over and over again I’ve watched love turn “blue babies pink.” I’ve seen so many find the courage to face the pain and come alive.
A friend of mine said once that courage is doing really scary things really scared. It was the first time I could relate to “courage.” And the only times I’ve ever seen real courage in action in my own life or anybody else’s, love was behind it.
Because love is stronger than death.
Death keeps us locked up – afraid and numbing ourselves to all the pain we can’t bear. It keeps us isolated and lonely, even with friends, because there is so much of us they can’t know. It makes us pretend and protect, because we can’t bear to think of the consequences if we don’t. Death will eat us alive.
But love won’t stay locked up. It won’t stay silent. It will stare down pain and death of every kind, if we can find the courage to let it.
I love the stories of “blue babies,” strangling on the hand life has dealt them, beginning to turn pink. Finding the strength to take deep, full breaths – the courage to love and be loved, with all the risks that entails. Coming alive to grow and thrive and walk and run and fall and get back up again and lose and try again and grieve and keep moving forward.
Where the Spirit of Love is, there is freedom. Where the Spirit of Love is, there is joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Where the Sprit of Love is, the dead walk out of their tombs.
Where the Spirit of Love is, an army of dry bones – blue babies – are covered with pink living flesh and breathe again.
Where the Spirit of Love is, there is life.
Messy, complicated, painful, glorious life.
Like Dr. Korones, I will fight to see blue babies turn pink.