Guest post by Ashley Davis-Romero
The Meal That Changed My Life
I remember the day as if it was yesterday, because we were supposed to go to Orlando for an appointment for my son at Arnold Palmer. We typically stayed at The Ronald McDonald House at Arnold Palmer Hospital. That particular weekend we didn’t make it, and that is the only part that escapes me. Why we did not go?
When reports of a shooting started to come in, and that it was at Pulse, my heart dropped. I knew that nightclub, having driven by it many times during our many stays at RMHCCF, as it is right around the corner from it. I followed the story, and when the numbers of those who were injured and didn’t make it out started to come in, my heart broke into pieces. How could someone do this? Why? Orlando had become our home away from home; we felt like a part of the community there.
The first time we rode by the memorial at Pulse, my son asked the dreaded question, “Mom, what happened there? Why are people leaving flowers and stuff?” How do you tell your nine and half year old that people were murdered because of who they loved? In our home our children are taught that who you love is not defined by sexual orientation, race, religion, or anything of the sort; our children know that as long as the person they love treats them well and loves them too, the semantics do not matter.
When the bricks with the victim’s names were done at Orlando Health, I was once again faced with explaining this tragedy to both of my children. Soon it was one of my kids’ favorite things to do: walk the path to the memorial, and read the names aloud. To remember and remind us that they were real people. What we did not know was that soon we would come face to face with this tragedy.
Love always wins over hate.
In July of 2017 the family of Simon Carrillo, a victim of the Pulse Tragedy, served a Share a Meal at RMHCCF. Wait, they wanted to serve us?! I was in awe and honored that this family who had lost their son and brother to such a horrible and unspeakable act of hate wanted to serve our families! I remember being so emotional about this, and I still am unto this day: that in the wake of their loss and their pain, they wanted to serve and help others in need.
As a Floridian most everyone has had the “How did the Pulse Nightclub shooting affect you?” conversation. Here is my answer: The day Simon’s family served us dinner, I promised myself never again would I hide my support for the LBGTQ+ community; because in my time of need, they served my family. They loved on us, and treated us as family. Never would I allow people to be treated differently because of their sexual orientation, they were safe to be who they are in my presence, and in my family.
This past year I bought a rainbow sticker for the back of my car that says, “Love is not a choice.” As we sat in the Target parking lot waiting for our car side drop off, the Target employee came and handed my daughter our stuff through the window, and said. “You are so lucky to have a mom who’s so open minded,” and then said, “Thank you for supporting my fiancé and I.” I smiled at him gently and said, “You’re welcome. Love is love,” and as we drove off my daughter said, “Mom, no one has the right to tell you who you should love.” And, she was right, because: LOVE. IS. NOT. A. CHOICE. And love ALWAYS wins over hate!