A Web Portal For Lesbians Of Color
A. D. Odom
I want to thank the family of friends who stayed forever by her side: Lauren, Joanie, Dianne (Christine's cousin), Valerie & Denise, Jewel & Rue, Thea, Phill, Preston, Dorthea (especially for your late night phone calls that got her through -- I was "the bug" and you were "the pest"), Bernadette (she went to Alaska), the nursing staff and aides at Kaiser Hospital (especially the aide who covered Christine, cleaned her teeth and prepared her for the journey), and those numerous others whose names I cannot remember now, thank you. A very special thanks to the gentleman I did not know (I believe you spent three months in the hospital after having a heart attack) who came to sing and to give Christine the truth. I could tell by looking at you how uncomfortable you were with God's command for you to bring her truth. A nervousness that cuts to the bone is one of the things you feel when the spirit hits you. But, you did it, you made it through, and it was a job well done. Never question or fear it, think of Caleb.
On June 18, 1989, I had a spiritual experience that changed my
life forever; I experienced the voice of God. It happened on a
night I asked God for help in my life and in business. I asked
for direction and guidance and vowed I would stay up all night,
just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane until the answer
came. (Little did I know, I would practice a similar all-nighter
for Christine and hear her words imploring me to “stay awake.”)
At that time in my life, I had moved from being an agnostic to becoming a member of a church and being baptized at 31 years of age. My spiritual journey spanned two years and I learned much during that time sitting “at the feet of Jesus.” Nothing and no one could have prepared me for that joyous night.
While in prayer, from within the deepest part of me, deep within my soul came the words “Caleb.” It was such a powerful feeling, this word resonated through my soul, I nearly became breathless from the force of the word – Ca, Ca, Ca, Caleb. I immediately jumped to my feet and intellect took over and I thought I would search out Caleb through the indices of the various Bibles I possessed. As I searched through the index of my Jerusalem Bible, my Good News Bible, my Scofield Bible, my King James Bible, all of them, I soon realized my intellect would not solve the question of Caleb.
I returned to the living room and while looking out of the window, I said to God, “okay Lord, as I am wont to do I have gone off half-cocked. Where will I find Caleb?” I returned to my knees and almost immediately, just as before came the words “Joshua 14:6.” In disbelief at what I was experiencing and partly embarrassed to ask the question, I asked God “how do I know this is you?” Again, forcefully, the response was “JOSHUA 14:6!” Needless to say, I got it.
I returned to the Bibles sprawled across the floor and this time picked up my Good News Bible and turned to Joshua 14:6 and there the heading read “Caleb inherits the hill country.” I fell to my knees in prayer and cried. I don't remember if I got the answer to my particular questions, all I knew was God was with me and would always be with me all I need do is ask. I understood so much in that moment and slowly, over the next few weeks and months, I noticed a number of changes in myself. I became an “I Can” person, I picked my battles and wasted little energy on battles and problems that were not mine to fight or solve. I discovered my soul and realized if I paid close attention and shut out the noise around me, my soul would lead me where I needed to go, when I needed to go, and would direct me to those I needed to know. I also realized a very uncomfortable unknowing feeling, sometimes I won’t know why I do what I do, I just need to do it and later, I would find understanding. I then asked God to make me for others what I needed for me.
The uncomfortable unknowing is what brought me to California. On the coldest day of the year, in January 1990, I asked God to show me the desires of my heart. I had a series of dreams. Two dreams in the series have actually happened. The first showed me living in an integrated neighborhood (a fantasy for a Chicagoan). In the other, I was walking to the beach and saw some odd thing covering a car window with a picture of a snow peaked mountain. I remember asking someone in the dream what it was and was told it was a windshield cover (unheard of in Chicago) with a picture of snow on a mountain. I live in an integrated neighborhood near the mountains where I can see the snow.
This was not my plan, however, in 1990. My plan was to leave Chicago and go to Atlanta – not Los Angeles. This plan changed while at mass. Everyday at lunchtime, I would go over to St. James Cathedral in Chicago to celebrate mass. This particular day, not only did I learn of a new destination, I also learned the date and the day I would travel from Chicago to Los Angeles. Stunned, I walked back to work trying to understand why Los Angeles of all places and then this day and date? I looked at my desk calendar and was stunned again to find the date given to me was indeed a Sunday. The date was September 9, 1990. Being obedient, on September 9, 1990, I left Chicago and moved to Los Angeles.
In 1995, I was invited to Unity Fellowship Church. During the service, I noticed a woman standing by a door on the far end of the church. What I noticed was the loving way she addressed people, her beautiful smile, and a rock when she laughed. She was beautiful. When the lights dimmed in the church, I could no longer see this woman. As the lights rose again the choir sang and I noticed this woman had moved from where she was standing on one side of the church to the other side where she was singing in the choir. She was amazing. I was moved to return to Unity just to see the ballet of this woman as she moved through the church, from one side to the other, to see her smile and to enjoy her proud posture.
I actually got a chance to meet this woman at a women’s rap group held at Unity one weekday evening. I was tormented about going to this meeting. I began to feel that uncomfortable unknowing gnawing at me. I didn’t want to go, I was physically tired, but I knew I had to go because of that uncomfortable unknowing. Tormented, I left my apartment early and drove around seeking excuses for not going. Finally, I drove to a KFC where I picked up some chicken for the meeting and got to the church early. I vowed if I saw no one there, I would leave with the chicken. Unfortunately, people were there and I had to go in.
Honestly, I was bored through much of the meeting until the woman who sang in the choir came in. I sat up then, my spirit was at ease, I was no longer tired or bored, I was very attentive and wanted to hear what she had to say and did she say a mouthful. She started talking about being glad to be back in her house, she talked about losing her house in the earthquake and having it rebuilt and the cost of rebuilding, she talked about being laid off at the end of the month, and then she stated she had skills and talents and knew she would be okay. She smiled and laughed through all of the bad news she shared. I immediately liked this woman.
After the meeting, I gave her my card and shared with her what I did and gave her some info pertaining to my business. I discovered she too liked computers and we talked a good long while. My personal conversation with her was just as exhilarating as her presence. She was a “can do” woman. When I got home that evening, she called me. I gave her a lead on a job I knew about at the Urban League and the very next day, she went to apply. Up to that time, in the few years I lived in Los Angeles, I never met anyone who took advantage of a lead like she did – not once, but many times in the seven years I knew Christine Tripp.
The first time I saw Christine, my spirit knew she was someone I wanted and needed in my life. Though our relationship did not last, our friendship was the strongest I’ve ever known. I loved her – I really loved her.
It took some time to crack the hard shell of Christine Adams Tripp, but I soon labeled myself “the bug” and kept bugging her about who she was – I wanted to know the person. We would often have long and terse discussions about the differences between people from the Midwest and the West Coast. I often told her about my relationships with others while in Chicago or in the south and how we not only got involved with a friend’s business, but we also got into a friend’s heart. I told her I neither wanted to engage in superficial conversation about who she was nor did I want to engage in pseudo intellectual masturbation with her. I wanted to know “the who” of her. Slowly she began to open up and what a beautiful person I found beneath the many veils.
I learned that the icy exterior Christine possessed held, at its core, a love for those she spoke to. If she came across as “Miss Know-It-All” it was because she wanted you to know, intensely, how important the message was and she needed you to hear it. Christine lived the paradigm of the people giving up the healer (Jesus) to be killed and asking to spare the life of the murderer and thief (Barrabus). That which you think is evil may actually be good and that which you think is good may actually be evil. For those who thought she was mean; they missed the point. She was the nicest, gentlest, caring person you could want for a friend. She would give you the shirt off her back and her last dime.
I remember talking with her on her cell phone while she was chatting up this little Jewish lady in line at the grocery store. She kept teasing this little lady and the lady kept teasing with Christine. Suddenly, the lady turned to Christine and said “will you take me home.” Without a second thought, she said yes and with her bad knees, not only did she take the woman home, she also helped her with her bags up to her apartment. She truly lived the life of Christ. I can tell many stories like this about her kindness to people she didn’t know and would never see again. At the core of Christine, she was love.
Last week, on Monday, May 20, I awoke with the uncomfortable unknowing. My spirit knew Christine was about to leave us. I sent a friend a website which presented the dying guidelines for caregivers which I felt would be the signs we would soon see in Christine. I started thinking of ways to join her closer to God in preparation for her journey and even remembered a woman who sang with her in the choir at Unity and wondered how I’d find her. I remembered Christine loved her voice and I thought how wonderful it would be if she would come to the hospital and sing to her. I remember thinking the perfect song would be “I Love The Lord.” On Thursday, while I was visiting with Christine, the woman I thought about actually walked through the door. I could not have planned that – God did. I asked her to sing to Christine and told Christine “the woman with the beautiful voice is here.” I asked if she knew “Stand” and she said not all of the words and so she thought of songs she knew to sing to Christine and one of them was “I Love The Lord.” I could not have planned that – God did.
Thursday evening, I resolved I would make a gospel CD for Christine to listen to. With the many MP3 files we accumulated and with her extensive collection of gospel songs, I knew I could come up with hours of music enjoyment. As I got to the hospital on Friday, this was the very thing she asked for and chided me for not having done this earlier. I went to her house to empty the contents of her gospel directory onto a CD, cleaned up my MP3 player and presented it to her Friday evening.
After leaving the hospital Friday evening, a deep depression came over me. I felt I should have stayed. This was confirmed for me when after getting home I received a call that Christine was “acting out.” My spirit knew this was to be the dark night of the soul -- that time before death when we ask why God has forsaken us. I went back to the hospital and spent the night and tried to work with her through her torment. When I left her at 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning, I left her to be with the rising sun (or risen son) to find peace. That uncomfortable unknowing compelled me to leave though my heart wanted to stay. I felt I should stay but this unexplainable anger rose within me and I could not discern whether I was angry with her or myself for disobeying what I felt was a command given me to leave. So I left her and I was tormented. Later, I understood I needed to step out of God’s way.
As I drove to the hospital Saturday evening, I knew Christine was at peace. That uncomfortable unknowing also made me aware this would be her last night. When I entered her room, she was in that state of preparation. I was so grateful that Christine was not to experience the long tormenting dying process many people have experienced which can go on for months. Christine had covered much ground after I left her and she and God had dealt with much to be where she was when I saw her – she was ready.
I went back home to prepare myself for Christine’s departure. I called my mother who has been my rock these past few months and I told her what I thought. When I told my mother I did not think Christine would make it through the night, this time I heard silence on the other end of the phone. My mother confirmed my suspicions. In the past, my mother would respond “yes she will, she’ll make it.” This time she said nothing. I immediately called a friend of Christine’s to let her know I would be calling her when I returned to the hospital to allow her to speak with Christine since Christine had called for her the previous evening and I then set out for the hospital.
When I returned to the hospital, the nursing staff who knew and came to love Christine had covered her, almost like a shroud, had cleaned her teeth, and she was lying in bed with her headphones on and listening to her gospel music and sermons. I called her friend so she could speak to her and then took my seat across from her and waited. At midnight, one of the aides came in to check Christine’s blood pressure and I awoke from sleep to see her place the blood pressure cuff around Christine’s arm. She said to me "God takes care of His own." Unfortunately, her machine did not work and she left saying she would find another machine and would return shortly – she did not.
I looked over at Christine and watched her sleep. At about 12:30 a.m., her breathing changed and her eyes moved to where I was sitting and she watched me for a short while. Then her eyes returned to center. One of Christines biggest fears was dying alone, realizing she was not, she began her journey home. As her journey began, that uncomfortable unknowing took over within me. The same force I felt within my spirit when I received the word Caleb, filled me. My spirit began to say “it’s okay, you can go now, come on, you can do it, take my hand, you’ll be alright.” This mantra continued within me until she took her last two breaths, she closed her eyes tight, tears fell and she was gone. If one can say a person died beautifully, then Christine died beautifully. No pain, no sorrow, very peaceful.
We all want to make a place in this world.
We all want our voices to be heard.
Everyone wants a chance to be someone.
We all have dreams we need to dream.
but sweeter than any star you can reach.
‘cause when you reach and find you’ve found someone.
You’ll hold this world’s most priceless thing,
the greatest gift this life can bring
‘cause when you look back, and know
You were loved.
You were loved by someone
Touched by someone
Held by someone
Meant something to someone
Touched somebody’s heart along the way
You can look back and say
Uh hum, you were loved.
Yes you are now.
You can have diamonds in your hands,
have all the riches in the land,
but without love, you don’t really have a thing.
When somebody cares that you’re alive
when somebody trusts you with their life,
that’s when you know, that you have all you need.
You'll hold this world’s most priceless gift,
the finest treasure that there is.
You can look back and know
You were loved.
So many roads that you can take.
Whatever way you go,
don’t take that road alone.
It’s better you should know
You are loved by someone
Touched by someone
Held by someone
Meant something to someone
Touched somebody’s heart along the way
You can look back and say
You did okay
You were loved.
So remember to tell that special one
you are loved
(Words from You Were Loved sung by Whitney Houston from The Preacher's Wife)
Goodbye my friend and yes, you were truly loved.
Remember, I told you . . .
There's No Such Thing as Death,
Just a Change of Worlds
CHRISTINE TRIPP, 56, an activist in the African-American and gay communities, died May 26, according to a press release from Christopher Street West, a West Hollywood, Calif., non-profit gay organization. A cause of death was not given.
Tripp was born Sept. 11, 1945, in Watts, Calif. In 1976, while studying law at the University of West Los Angeles, she founded and became the first president of the school's Black American Law Student Association. She was a singer and an activist.
She was involved in the civil rights movement and marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., in 1964, and became an ordained minister of social justice in 1972. She helped start many organizations and was a founding member of the Unity Fellowship Church and the Minority AIDS Project.
For many years, Tripp was actively involved with the National Black Lesbian & Gay Leadership Forum and the United Lesbians of African Heritage. She recruited volunteers for the Los Angeles Pride Festival and Parade and for the last two years served on the Board of Christopher Street West as head of volunteers.
The Los Angeles Pride will be dedicated to Tripp's memory this year.