Wednesday, July 18, 2012
The joy and freedom Signal Mountain resident Lynelle Mason found in being honest with herself and others led her to share her story in her recently released memoir, “Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts: A Story of Finding and Giving Acceptance.”
“I felt like I had to do it — not only did I have to, but I wanted to,” she said of writing the book, which recounts her life from the time she was 4 months old, when a stroke of lightning killed her father, a minister in Georgia.
“I think I’ve had a rather unique life that could have ended in bitterness,” said Mason, whose mother was left with eight children age 4 months to 14 years. “Instead I’ve had joy and peace.”
Another shock came in a letter home from her oldest brother when Mason was in second grade. She saw the letter upset her mother and found a way to read it, discovering her oldest brother was gay.
“If I had known then what I know and accept today, I think things would have been different for him,” said Mason, who regrets concentrating on trying to convert her brother rather than being affirming. “I would have just accepted him and loved him as he was without any strings attached.”
Mason dealt with sexuality issues a second time when her own son informed her he was gay. While times had changed since her brother came out in the 1930s, Mason kept her son’s sexual orientation to herself for years.
Her husband served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Rossville for 17 years, and she said members of the congregation probably guessed her son’s sexual preference based on her mentions of his “partner” in church newsletters.
She eventually chose to share the information with her Sunday school class, friends and now many others.
“People are faced with all kinds of problems; you have the choice of whether that turns you toward God and toward other people or let it make you bitter and mad at the world,” said Mason. “If you’re willing to make yourself vulnerable, it’s amazing how well people will respond to you.”
Mason feels her book will be helpful to those who seek solutions to problems they face which have no clear-cut answers.
“Although I knew my child was different, he was delightfully different to me,” she said. “I always thought if there was a problem, God would take over and change him.”
Mason said she realized it was her perception of her son’s sexuality that needed changing, not his orientation.
“I hope the contrast between the things that happened in my oldest brother’s life and the things that happened in my son’s life will help out not just a few people, but help the whole scene of acceptance in America and the world,” she said.
She said she has sold around 130 copies of the book herself, and the phone calls, letters and comments she has received from those who read it have served as validation to her that writing a memoir was the right thing to do.