I Saw Your Name in the Obituary Column Today
- Tuesday, October 24, 2006
It had been a long day, my friend, and a busy one (aren’t they all?). By the time I got around to glancing through the paper, I wanted nothing more than a few quiet moments to relax and unwind. But as I opened to the comics, there, on the opposite page, were the obituary notices (ironic combination, don’t you agree?). I glanced at them casually, then stopped, sure someone had kicked me in the stomach. My ears began to ring. I forgot to breathe. All I could see was your name.
“No!” I screamed. To myself? Out loud? I wasn’t sure. No, no, no! It can’t be. You can’t be dead. Not yet! Not yet…
I threw the paper across the floor and jumped up from the couch. Pacing from room to room, I told myself it had to be a mistake. Someone else with your name. Someone else who was the same age as you. Someone else who had AIDS…
Finally, when I could deny it no longer, I went back and read the entire notice. And then I cried. When I was sure I could cry no more, I went into my office and dug out the file marked “AIDS Research” – the one I had filled up so quickly with your help while writing one of my books.
And then I cried some more.
Because there, in the midst of all the notes and miscellaneous data, was your picture. Not a statistic — a face. A face I had never seen prior to starting the research for my book. A face I had grown to love.
Do you remember our first meeting, my friend? Tense. Tentative. Emotional. What else could it be? It isn’t often that you meet someone for the first time, then sit down and say, “Tell me about your personal life and how you feel about dying.”
Our relationship was never a surface one, was it? We hit all the issues… head-on. We seldom agreed, I’ll admit. But each meeting, each phone call, each card or letter brought us closer, as the following excerpt from a letter I wrote to you only a few weeks after we met so vividly exemplifies:
Recently, you said to me, “Between the both of us I am hoping that we can effectively create a change in attitudes and behaviors that is so important to overcoming the many devastating aspects of this disease.” A lofty goal, my friend… and a worthy one. I pray you’re right. But let’s never be anything but completely honest with each other, shall we? Your beliefs and mine concerning AIDS and homosexuality will probably never be one and the same, so it may be unrealistic to think that we can expect to effect that sort of change in others. I say that simply because we have some marked differences in our concept of God and of the world in general, mine being somewhat more conservative, I’m sure. However, I must admit (and I imagine you will, too) that there is no one in my life — friend, acquaintance, loved one — with whom I agree completely on everything. Were I to limit my relationships to those whose thoughts, beliefs, and opinions lined up totally with my own, I would be a very lonely person, indeed!
So, to answer your question regarding what my book is really about: It is a fictional account of a conservative Christian mother who learns her son, John, is dying of AIDS. It is her first revelation that he is gay. What do I hope to accomplish in the writing of this book? Well, if I can change someone’s mind regarding the treatment of people with AIDS, wonderful! But that may be too much to hope for. Rather than concentrating on changing readers’ minds, I would like to think that the book will change their hearts. As I said, you and I may never come to a complete “meeting of the minds” on AIDS, homosexuality, or various and sundry other topics, but that certainly doesn’t preclude our caring for one another.
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