By Donald Sherfick
When I wrote a tribute to our departed good friend and usual Sunday morning breakfast companion, lobbyist/activist Mark St. John in the November-December issue of The Word, I had no idea our trio would be reduced to only me in early December, when my better half also passed away.
Managing editor Mark Lee has been kind enough to invite me to express some thoughts about Donald “Jerry” Hicks, my best friend and partner for 20 years, and my spouse since that happy day in June 2014 whean we were able to legally marry in Indiana.
Expressing those thoughts in a medium read by many, many more folks than ever heard of either one of us proves not to be a simple task. Tears still come too quickly when starting to write, and when they dry I’ve still been left with trying to condense so many things into a small printed space. Perhaps Mark Lee’s project “Ordinary Couples, Extraordinary Lives” of about a decade ago sums us up best.
In 1993, an ordinary 45-year-old black guy (Jerry) from near West Side Baltimore comes to Indianapolis and meets a 55-year-old white guy who grew up between Broad Ripple and Glendale. Both of us were initially considerably less than impressed with each other in so many ways. He the infinitely patient, measured, often on first meeting detached and even cynical – me wanting to do everything right now, and sometimes too immediately engaging and trusting for my own good.
But in time, having found more common interests in music, cosmology, science, politics, the 24 hour news cycle, and the like, those differences both complimented each other and blended into a relationship we both found deeply satisfying and rewarding. An “Ordinary Couple,” yes, in the sense that our own story matches that of myriad other couples throughout the world. Yet “Extraordinary” because our relationship and its endurance defied the “conventional” view of many who fail to understand that our humanity transcends any differences in whom we love.
His most important and enduring lesson to me, given his coming of age as a black gay man during the civil rights turmoil of the 1960s: “You take so much for granted when you are at the top of the socioeconomic pecking order – look around you – understand how things look to others not of your ‘status.’ Have a conversation with them, and then have many more.”
He has left this life at a time when our endless political cycle is becoming increasingly mired in rhetoric blaming the country’s ills on “the other.” That deeply frustrated him. But now, I like to think his freed intellect and soul is exploring all of those parallel universes and galaxies we learned about, hand in hand on the couch in front of a TV tuned quite often to the Discovery Channel, with little time to dwell on the petty discord still all too prevalent on this tiny planet we call home.
The ordinary yet extraordinary man I was privileged to share a quarter of my lifetime with often reminded me, “Only the good die young.” He left my life – our lives – too quickly, but he was right about himself. And his own immeasurable goodness will long remain in my heart, and the hearts of our friends.
Rest in Peace, Jerry Hicks, love of my life. I am – we are – infinitely richer for having known you.