I Saw Your Name in the Obituary Column Today
- 2006 24 Oct
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.
As I told you in the beginning, the purpose of my book is not to condone nor condemn homosexuality. What I want to ask of John’s mother and, by extension, to my readers is: “Can you love him anyway?” And to John, I ask, “Can you love her anyway?” Though you each look at life differently, though you may never agree on some very basic issues, can you get past that and support each other anyway?
I firmly believe that, for the most part, the Church has failed in its reaction to the AIDS crisis. Without a doubt, this stems from the conservative Christian viewpoint — which I share, as you know — of homosexuality as a sin. But must we really have an either/or situation here? After all, I’m not about to reverse my thinking and go into the Church and tell them they are wrong in their belief that homosexuality is a sin. And what good would it do for me to preach to you that it is, since you claim not to believe what the Bible says on the subject? How presumptuous of me even to attempt to effect a meeting of the minds on such a volatile topic!
But a meeting of the hearts? Why not? As you may know, the Greek word for the Holy Spirit is Paraclete, which literally means “one who comes alongside.” I believe that is the responsibility of the Church today regarding the tragedy of AIDS. Compassion is simply not enough. Oh, for some, it’s a start — a big start! And if my book can bring even a few to that point, it will have been worth the writing. But I want to say more. I want to say to Christians and to non-Christians alike — although I feel the responsibility lies heaviest with believers — that we must put aside our fears and our feelings, legitimate or otherwise, on the subjects of homosexuality and AIDS, and then come alongside and begin to help carry the load of those who are suffering. I don’t doubt for a moment that it’s what Jesus would have done had He walked the earth today. And I don’t doubt for a moment that it’s what He has called us to do.
So much has happened since I wrote you that letter. Our friendship went from tense, tentative, and emotional to relaxed, committed, and emotional. But through it all, God was faithful, wasn’t He? (He always is). I watched you change, and I saw myself change as well. We learned much from each other, and we learned so very much from His unconditional love.
I will never forget our last phone conversation a couple of weeks ago. Right before you hung up you said, “I’m so tired. I just want to go home and be with Jesus.” Now that you’re there, tell me — is it even more beautiful than you thought it would be?
I’ll miss you, my friend. I’ll miss your ready smile, your sparkling blue eyes, your wit and creativity and tenderness. But I’ll see you again one day. Of that, I have no doubt. Why am I so sure? Because, at some point in our relationship, we had a meeting of the hearts — just as you did with Jesus. And though I cried when I saw your name in the obituary column today, I also rejoiced, because I knew that Jesus saw that same name in His very own book of Life.
Kathi Macias is an Angel-award winning writer who has authored seventeen books, including the bestselling devotional A Moment A Day from Regal Books, and the popular Matthews and Matthews detective novels from Broadman and Holman. Kathi has written commentary for Thomas Nelson’s Spirit-Filled Life Bible (Student Edition) and was part of the devotional writing team for Zondervan’s New Women’s Devotional Bible. Her numerous articles, short stories, and poems have appeared in various periodicals. Kathi is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and has appeared on several radio and TV programs. A mother and grandmother, Kathi lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where she is at work on several writing and editing projects. An ordained minister, Kathi serves as spiritual adviser to the Christian Authors Network and membership chairman for the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. www.kathimacias.com.