Recently, a dear friend passed away. It was unexpected, and it hit many of us very hard. Ross Manzo was the father-in-law to my son, Aiden. From the first moment I met him, I felt he was a good man.
Aiden and Mary were dating at the time, and Ross and his wife, Cathy, came to a PFLAG monthly support group meeting. For those who do not know, PFLAG is a chapter organization of family, friends and allies that support the LGBTQ community. It was at this meeting that I first met Ross.
As Aiden and Mary’s love for each other grew, so did our friendship with Ross and Cathy. We went to a local concert on the greens, saw “Allegiance” and visited the Japanese American Museum together. We have shared Thanksgiving as families for the past five years, and they came to our family’s annual Christmas party, joined in our crazy antics and games and, most recently, they attended our son Stefen’s graduation party.
Over four years ago, when the kids were planning their wedding, Ross stood up to his religious family and said that they would not be welcome at the wedding if they did not accept his daughter and Aiden. Many of them did not attend. This hurt Ross deeply, but he was a man who stood up for what he thought was right. And on their wedding day, he only wanted love to surround them, not bigotry and judgment.
The wedding was filled with joy, gratitude, but most of all, you could feel the love that filled this day. And at Aiden and Mary’s wedding reception, Ross privately pulled us aside and thanked Tad and I for raising such a wonderful son.
I respected Ross so much before, but on this day, my heart filled with love for a man who saw through what others might judge Aiden for. He shared he might not understand all the things about the LGBTQ community, but Ross saw Aiden’s compassionate and beautiful heart and how much he adored his daughter. This was the best wedding present he could have given my son, and it sealed the bond between us.
So, this is a tribute to a man who I will always remember and love. He will inspire me from this day forward to see into the hearts of people, even though I may not understand them. He has taught me by his untimely death that I have no guarantee in life tomorrow, so I must live today without regret. If I have regrets, I must do something about it. And if I can’t do something about it, I must release it to make room for things I can do something about.
When I first met Ross, I thought he was a good man. Today, I think he is a great man. It was my honor to know him and be a part of his life, even for a short time.
Marsha Aizumi is an advocate in the LGBT community and author of the book “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance.”