Back in the 1990s, when AIDS was taking away so many of our friends and family members, a friend of mine, Robert - who though deathly ill had also spent much of his time going to public schools and the like, talking about his illness - had one final gathering at his home, surrounded by people he had grown close to over the years.
By this point, there was no pretending that he was going to make it through this, or that eh had any more than a handful of days left on this plane of his existence.
His home health worker had put out the word that if we wanted to say goodbye, this was the day to do it.
Many may not recall, but there was still a lot of malice and unreasoning bigotry extended towards those afflicted with AIDS - much more so than now.
“They have only themselves to blame!” was the cry of many who would also consider themselves to be quite close to God.
Screw ‘em. I cared for shrill ignorance then just as much as I do now.
Each person had a chance to speak with Robert, now so weakened he could not lift his head above his pillow. When it came my turn, he smiled and said, “I’ve got some books to loan you,” meaning books by a writer we both enjoyed, and he had loaned me several of his books in the past.
Those same books, Clive Barker’s Imajica
novels, sit next to me as I write this. In over twenty years, I have kept the books close, and never loaned them to another person.
The concept of my dying friend “loaning” me these books, making such a lighthearted comment ion the midst of so much sadness, literally took my breath away.
I don’t remember how I answered, or even how the rest of the day went.
It was a long time before I could tell this story without starting to cry. But the 21st anniversary of his death is looming large on the horizon, and some tribute must be paid to a man who could have chosen to die alone, but probably wore himself out even more, in his attempts to educate others about AIDS.
This one’s for you, Robert.
This morning I listened to the soundtrack from “Xena, Warrior Princess,” simply because it is pretty good.
Now on YouTube: Shamrock, Texas - Graveyard of Doom
The sad fate of Shamrock, Texas, a former Route 66 town.
Quote of the Day
Nothing that grieves us can be called little; By the eternal laws of proportion, a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a kingdom are events of the same size. - Mark Twain