Rose Marie Walston stood at the podium at the Nash Arts Center Monday night and said she was "coming out."
But it wasn't the typical revelation to others that she is gay.
It was a mother. A mother who did not know her son was gay until he overdosed on drugs six years ago.
"It's hard for me to stand up here," she said. "It has taken me six and a half years to get to this place. I live with the pain every day of my son. It's got to stop and this is where I'm starting."
Walston, originally from Wilson, lost her son in 2003. He was 36.
Mitchell Gold, author of "Crisis: 40 stories revealing the personal, social and religious pain and trauma of growing up gay in America," asked Walston to share her story during his visit to Nashville. The Rocky Mount branch of PFLAG invited Gold to speak. Close to 130 people attended the event.
The New Jersey native, who moved to Hickory 22 years ago, learned many teens struggled in small-town America with their sexual identity. As a young man, he was gripped with fear thinking that his parents and brother would reject him. He was also afraid at school, wasn't sure if he would ever have a successful career and didn't know if society would accept him.
"I don't remember a happy day when I was in school or in my college days," Gold said. "I remember so many nights going to bed thinking about killing myself because I didn't want to live this kind of life that has no future in this society."
Gold finally told his father and was relieved his father only wanted him happy. Through therapy he learned how to accept his identity and love himself.
He discussed his interaction with many politicians who oppose gay marriage or other human rights for people who are not heterosexual.
"I've had an understanding of how religious beliefs can be used to hurt or harm other people but I also have an understanding of how religious beliefs can be used to welcome and love and care about people," he said.
Gold is the founder of Faith in America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending religion-based prejudice. He is best known as a leader and trendsetter in the furniture industry.
For the full article in The Wilson Times, click here.