News has hit the airwaves that Fred Phelps Sr., the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, is now in the care of a hospice in Topeka. It has been reported that he was voted out of the church he founded in August of 2013 and last month went into hospice. Yesterday the news reported that his estranged son, Nate Phelps, had announced that the elder Phelps had stopped eating and was completely unresponsive. To me, an EMT (who recently said goodbye to my own grandfather), that spells the end of life.
Many in the media, milbloggers, and gay activists are having a field day right now. When I first read the news I thought about a lot of things I wanted to say, but nothing I can reflect on right now is really appropriate. Nothing that I or anyone else thought of him matters in light of the fact that Fred still has a family that loves him.
Of the 70 or so members of his family, about 20 had left Westboro. A few were forced out; most left willingly. Those who made the decision to leave knew that they would never see any of their family again but still hope to have the chance to see the man they know as “Gramps” one last time.
Fred was a different person to his family than he was to us. His granddaughter Grace, who left with her older sister Megan last year, wrote a beautiful missive about her love for her grandfather today. Nothing that he did or said that made him a different person to me can change the fact that he obviously loved his grandchildren, and they deeply love him.
I refuse to take part in any celebration over this. I will not rehash his wrongs. All I will say is directed squarely at those of his family who miss him the most, those who had to leave because they no longer agreed with the teachings of the church. Nate, Mark, Dorotha, Libby, Josh, Megan, Grace, and the others whose names I do not know, I am sorry. I wish you could see him again. I wish things hadn’t gone the way they did in your family. I wish you could mourn privately, without the media deconstructing everything your Gramps has ever done. I understand how much it hurts to lose a grandfather that you haven’t been able to see or speak to in a long time because of family issues, and I hurt for you. I was at least able to see my Pawpaw before he died; I cannot imagine how I would feel if I hadn’t been there when he left this life.
I hope you all find some peace. I wish I could do or say more, but I can at least say there is one small corner of the new media of the internet where you will not find anger or hatred while you grieve. I cannot be happy for Fred’s pending death because all of you still wish for one more minute with him.
(On this post, I will break my rule about not deleting comments intended to inflict pain. Any comments posted against the spirit of the main article will be deleted. Continued attempts to re-post such comments will result in your IP being blocked.)