StoryCorps: After Her Death, A Mother Leaves Daughter In Good Hands Corinthia Isom was just a child when her mother died, but her mom ensured that a mother figure stayed in her life.

'You Make Your Own Family': Losing A Mother, Gaining 2 More

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It is Friday, when we hear from StoryCorps. And today we have an example of the saying that you have two families - the one you're born with and the one you find. Corinthia Isom was just a child when her single mom died, having arranged for her daughter to be cared for by a couple she had met in an LGBTQ gospel choir in New York.

Here Corinthia tells the story to Kathleen Payne, one of the women who took her in.

CORINTHIA ISOM: Me and my mother were very close in the last years. She was a stubborn woman, vibrant. She looked like me. I look in the mirror, and I see my mom.

KATHLEEN PAYNE: How did you find out that your mom was HIV-positive?

ISOM: She sat me down one day on the steps and told me, you know, I have HIV and things are going to change within our lives.

PAYNE: April and I were partners. And at that point, your mom had decided that we were going to take care of you when she passed away. And every weekend, April and I would hang out with you and your mom. I remembered that she said, don't tell her that I'm going to die. And so we didn't say anything, which made it kind of hard because we wanted to get to know you better.

So when we got the news that your mom had passed on, I was really scared. For one thing, it was difficult for a lesbian couple to adopt. And I remember you asked us - do I have to call you Mommy? And we said, well, no. And then later on you said, why do you guys talk like you're white?


ISOM: Yeah.

PAYNE: I looked at you. And I said, this is the way some black people talk (laughter).

ISOM: Yeah.

You guys were very educated. And for me, it was like, they're going to want me to study all the time. But I enjoyed you guys, and I was looking forward to you guys being my parents.

PAYNE: Your mom trusted that we would take care of you. And she knew we had the support of a lot of people who knew her and would be there for us, which is the kind of thing that you also develop when you're queer and your family may or may not accept you. And so you make your own family.

ISOM: Every day, I think about my mom. And she never talked to me about why she chose you guys. But she made a good choice - a very good choice.


INSKEEP: Corinthia Isom with one of her moms, Kathleen Payne, at StoryCorps in New York. By the way, Kathleen is no stranger to StoryCorps; she's worked at the front desk there for years. To hear more, get the StoryCorps podcast at

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