I got the news while in a movie theater last night, about 1020pm from one of my Courage brothers, the here-mentioned Tar Heel who loved Tammy Faye as much as I did. He sent this simple three-word text message to me:
Rip tammy fayeAs a writer, one never knows what will resonate with people. Whenever I check my traffic since May, without fail, I learn that some people have been directed from a word search for "Tammy Faye" to this post "As She Lay Dying," which has gotten prominently listed on major search engines. The editor of one of Washington's two principal gay weeklies, Sean Bugg of Metro Weekly, wrote about my post about her. Just earlier this week, I got the following e-mail from a stranger:
Subject: Thank you for your blog on Tammy FayeTammy Faye's death was, of course, not unexpected. As the writer noted, she appeared again on "Larry King Live" earlier this week (video excerpts here; transcript here). To say that she didn't look good would be an understatement. That was my dominant initial reaction, though one I quickly took back mentally when I mulled it over.
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2007 10:25:36 -0700
I caught your blog today and cried. I saw tammy faye on larry king live last night which
devastated me. I will pray for her soul. She is a christian who loves all people (black, white, gay, square).etc.
It was the latest and final proof that superficial appearance didn't matter to Tammy Faye. It's too bad that in English the word "shameless" has come to have a negative connotation, because it describes her appearing on TV to encourage people and talk about the Lord and His presence in her life while she was on death's doorstep. Shame didn't matter to her. Or maybe "prideless" is the word I'm looking for (except that I don't think it's an "official" Webster-approved word). The kind of pride that would keep most of us off TV in her state and which caused her son Jay to have her exit his reality-TV show "One Punk Under God" when she was in obviously better condition than she was this week -- that just didn't matter to her. Only evangelizing did. And if that meant appearing on TV in this way, so be it. Roger Ebert made a similar point about refusing to hide his own illness. One of John Paul the Great's last great witnesses was refusing to give in to his manifest infirmities, to be an icon of Christ in his illness.
Ironically, one part of the King interview, that Yahoo excerpted above or a clip, was providential for me:
I talk to God every single day. And I say, "God, my life is in your hands and I trust you with me."Earlier on Saturday, a few hours before I learned Tammy Faye had died and while (I'm guessing) her ashes were being scattered, I was in confession, tears again (though no mascara -- I'm a butch, manly-type homo). My parish pastor listened to another bout of despairing doubt and said that better cultivation of Hope was needed. His penance was to repeat several times a short prayer "Jesus, I trust in you."
(Aside: I swear to God, as I write at 2am Sunday morning, my iTunes just rotated randomly to Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," a song that was almost certainly consumed upon release as an 80s slam on televangelism a la Jim and Tammy. But which has lyrics too elemental and too resonant to be contained by this superficial topicality and avoid contrarian appropriation -- having been covered by the devout Christian Johnny Cash near the end of his life. Also, like Tammy Faye. I'll keep iTunes on DM until I'm done.)
But those words "Jesus, I trust in you" were essentially Tammy Faye's last words to the world. She was totally in His hands. And her final days were an act of witness to Father's short prayer, in the face of, in her case, the ultimate earthly darkness.