I couldn't get off the dining room floor. The crushing weight of Christopher's declaration—and his emotionless departure—left me feeling cold and lifeless. No discussion. No compromise. Just the slamming of the door that seemed to say, "Good bye . . . forever." Receiving news of his death would have been easier to accept than all of this.
I was overwhelmed by the reality that my son was gay and didn't want to change. Our family was broken, and my life was falling apart. Every dream I'd had for years—for my marriage, for my sons, for my future—was gone. I could see no more reason to live. I was certain that I'd have no satisfaction or happiness in this world. I saw only sadness, disappointment, and rejection. And I wanted no more of it.
I slowly pulled myself off the floor and went to the bedroom, where I sobbed until dawn. I was at the intersection of life and death. Death's road seemed less painful—so it was the one I chose.
I would end this misery that had started long ago.
When my husband, Leon, and I first came to the United States in 1964, we were two young transplants on foreign soil, struggling to grow roots. We had no family here, no friends, and no money. Starting with nothing, we raised a family on meager financial resources. Leon got his PhD and his DDS, and I gave birth to two sons—Steven and Christopher. We lived on a very tight budget, but that didn't matter because we were building a future for our sons. Those days were full of hope and anticipation. I had a family—a place where I belonged—and I poured all of myself into it, expecting to find the joy and satisfaction I so longed for.
As school-age children, Steven and Christopher were both honor students and winners of piano and math contests. They were well behaved and obedient, but sadly, they often were ridiculed or bullied at school. They persevered, as we did, and friends and neighbors later praised us as model parents and frequently asked for parenting tips. We clipped enough newspaper articles about the boys' accomplishments to fill numerous scrapbooks. And on top of their honors and awards, Leon and I were succeeding in life. We had a thriving dental practice, and I took pride in our picture-perfect family. But I still felt empty. I was living a double life: successful on the outside, but empty on the inside. A whole gaped in my heart, and I ached to fill it. Family accomplishments, the things I worked so hard for, brought me no comfort.
As time passed, there was a crack in the pristine facade of my role as a mother. Our boys, now young men, had changed dramatically. No longer were they my high achievers who earned honors and awards that I could take pride in. Instead, they lived carelessly and with no clear direction for their future. Our older son, Steven, left home after college and was living a hedonistic life. While his rebellion might be considered typical for an American fraternity boy, he certainly was not raised that way.
Christopher had been my last ray of hope; he was obedient, caring, thoughtful. But now this—his announcement a week after Mother's Day that he was gay. Christopher had rejected me, the family, and the life I had prepared for him. How could I not feel hopeless?
Throughout my sleepless night, Christopher's decision to walk away replayed over and over in my mind. I had contemplated ending it all before, but there was always something to hold on to: the boys, the dental office, our rental properties. But now none of that mattered. There was nothing holding me to this world any longer. So my resolve was firm—this would be the end.
With my mind made up, I felt the need to see a minister. I'd never been religious and actually had an aversion toward Christians, but I wanted someone to talk to before leaving this earth—someone who would listen. Maybe this was a good way to find closure. The problem was that I didn't know any ministers except for Father Foley, the chaplain at Loyola, where Leon taught once a week.
I walked into the kitchen, where Leon was eating breakfast. He acted as if nothing unusual had happened the day before. I stared at him for a second, amazed that he could be so calm when our family had fallen apart. I hesitated before speaking.
"I want you to drive me to see Father Foley."
We rode in silence. Not a word was said about Christopher. Our years of non-communication made silence the norm between us, and as always I was feeling completely alone. The meeting with Father Foley was short. He listened, I cried, and Leon did nothing. Father Foley was gracious and spoke comfortingly, but his words were not enough to resuscitate my deadened heart. As we were leaving, he put his hand on my shoulder and handed me a booklet. I thanked him for his time, all the while reconfirming the plan to end my life.
A light at the end of the tunnel
I decided to buy a one-way ticket to see Christopher in Louisville before the end of my life. As the train pulled out of Chicago, I felt some relief. I was on the way to the end of the road. Even though everything in my life was out of control, at least I could control this one thing. I couldn't control what had happened to my life, but I could control the end of my life.
I was also still holding onto the booklet I'd received the day before. Its cover was worn and the edges curled after being in my hands for so long. Finally, I looked at the title: Homosexuality: An Open Door? by Colin Cook.
Interesting, I thought. I began to read.
It was a Christian booklet, but for the first time I didn't want to avoid it simply for that reason. I was captivated by every word. The booklet explained that God loves everyone—even homosexuals—because of who they are, not what they do. I had never heard this before. I had decided that I couldn't love my son anymore because of his decision. But this booklet said that God loves homosexuals—even Christopher—regardless of what they do. I thought that if God can love my son, then I could still love him as well.
As I continued reading, I realized that I wasn't reading it for Christopher. Even though it was written for people who had homosexual feelings, I felt like the booklet was written for me. It spoke about death—that death was the result of our brokenness, our failures, our imperfections. Instead of our dying, Christ died for us so that we wouldn't have to die. I won't have to die? But what was there to live for? Everything that I had ever loved had rejected me. If there was no love here for me, why remain?
Then I read a statement that seemed to pierce my deadened heart: Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
Nothing? You mean God loves . . . even me?
The train rumbled down the tracks on that May morning. I usually found traveling through Indiana's flatlands monotonous. But as I gazed out the window, it seemed like I could see for miles. The fields were bursting forth with new life as rows upon rows of crops seemed to extend to the horizon. All my life I had been an atheist and even despised Christians. But at that moment, as I was looking at the beauty of nature, I knew there must be a God.
A calmness came over me. The wonder and awe of the outdoors seemed to radiate through the glass and surround me. Then I heard a still, small voice that said, You belong to me.
I wasn't startled or scared. The voice was not loud, nor was it a whisper. But it seemed to be right next to me—gentle, sweet—as if it had been there all along. I felt the tension in my shoulders melt away, and my muscles began to relax.
All my life I wanted to belong. Belong to my parents. Belong to my husband. Belong to my children. But God was telling me that I didn't belong to anybody on earth. I belonged to him.
He knew my deepest need, and he spoke the words I longed to hear. Those four words were a healing balm to my shattered heart. I had not been seeking God, but I was found by him.
Suddenly it seemed possible that my visit with Christopher—the visit that I had envisioned as one last good-bye—might actually be the beginning of something new.
Adapted from Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God. A Broken Mother's Search for Hope by Christopher and Angela Yuan. Copyright 2011 by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan. Used with permission from Waterbrook Multnomah. To connect with Christopher and Angela's ministry, visit their website at ChristopherYuan.com, or follow them on or Facebook.