The documentary centers around the decades-long relationship between two women, Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel, who met after World War II in 1947 and hid the truth about their relationship from their families for most of the 70+ years that they’ve been together.
The film also showcases how these two women navigate their lives as they get older and their health starts to deteriorate.
While their relationship began in a different era, there were still many moments that modern-day lesbian couples could identify with.
Here are 7 ways that their relationship is relatable to every lesbian couple:
1. They were the original U-Haul lesbians
These two met at a local hockey rink one Sunday morning, fell in love swiftly, bought a home, moved in together as “roommates”, and have lived together ever since. Aka, the storyline of every U-Haul lesbian relationship.
Pat: It was one of the best days of my life when I met her.
2. They expressed their love secretly through sweet love letters
Both Pat and Terry had to be very secretive with their love and one of the adorable ways they expressed their feelings for one another was through hand-written notes.
That was also how Pat officially told Terry she had romantic feelings for her. At the end of a “date night” after they went skating together, and as they were parting on the street corner, Pat handed Terry a note that said:
I’m a reader and I’ve read lots of stories. But I’ve never known where another woman had loved another woman. Above all things, I hope it’s mutual.
And yes, the feeling was mutual.
The sweet love letters don’t just end there. One of the most heartwarming scenes was when Pat rediscovered a love letter she wrote for Terry many years ago and read it out loud to her.
The poem was called “Always I’ll Remember This Night.”
It might have been just one more walk beneath the moonlight hue
But, darling, it meant everything because I walked with you
It might have been just one more night
A single night of seven
My darling, you were there with me
‘Twas one more night of heaven
On we sauntered seldom speaking
As we passed through Moonlight Lane
Happiness walked there inside of me
When you smiled and called my name
Hours fled like winged moments
Hand in hand, we walked alone
It was one night I shall remember,
One more night to call our own.
Can we get a mic drop and a tissue box, please? 🎤😭
3. All of their past boyfriends didn’t work out
If there’s one thing that’s universal for lesbians is that our relationships with guys never work out.
In Pat’s case, she had 3 boyfriends before meeting Terry and each one of them ended up dying tragically.
When I was 18, I was engaged to a young man who died.
Then I was with another man during WWII who was a pilot that was killed.
Then I was with the son of a farmer, who was in a tractor that rolled over, and he also died.
Guess the universe was really trying to tell her something…
4. They were homebodies
While the circumstances were certainly different back then and going to a lesbian/gay bar could mean ending up in jail and sacrificing your life, Terry and Pat didn’t seem to feel like they missed out by choosing not to go to these bars.
Terry: We never went to those bars.
Pat: We never went to a bar.
Instead of going to the bar, they would rather stay at home. Chia and I can definitely relate to this.
5. They had to pretend to be cousins/best friends to cover up their relationship
Pat and Terry actually worked together at the same company for 26 years and during that entire time, their coworkers just thought they were good friends. Very good friends.
They also used the excuse that living together was safer and cheaper in Chicago.
At their wedding ceremony, even their officiant joked that now they can refer to each other as wives instead of cousins.
6. They had to deal with homophobic family members
Every LGBTQ person has had to deal with homophobia in some shape or form and that can even come from their own family members.
For Pat and Terry, the attitudes towards LGBTQ people during the 50s and 60s were nowhere near as accepting as they are today.
Pat was very close to her younger brother, Al, but when she finally came out to him and told him that she and Terry were planning on getting married, he said, “You can’t do it. It would hurt our family. I don’t want you to tell anybody in my family.” Ouch.
Luckily, it didn’t stop these two.
Similarly for Terry, she recalls that her mother would’ve disowned her if she ever found out she was a lesbian, and that Terry’s brother used to say that if she just had sex with a man, it would set her straight. Ugh.
7. They’ll do anything for the woman they love–even if it means giving up their favorite things
There’s a scene when Terry, Pat, and Diana (Terry’s niece) are discussing moving out of their home in Chicago to a retirement/nursing home and Terry was all for getting rid of everything and selling their home.
But Pat had a different reaction and was a lot less enthusiastic.
And Terry’s like, “Seriously…?”
Eventually, they do move out of their home. Whether or not those chairs went with them (we’ll never know), but Pat ultimately has a change of heart and at the end of the day, we always do what’s best for the ones we love.
Despite a lifetime of overcoming obstacles and hiding their lesbian relationship, these two women have built a beautiful love story and life together.
They were pioneers and broke the rules during a time when it was dangerous to do so, thus paving the way for future generations of LGBTQ people.
Thank you for showing us what true love and being in a long-term committed relationship for 70+ years looks like. ❤️#relationshipgoals
Check out our comic inspired by A Secret Love.
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