Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reflections on World AIDS Day: Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember. ~Seneca

I wrote this on the 1st, but somehow never published it.  Forgive the almost six month delay. . .

Each World AIDS Day is a sort of Memorial Day for me.  Remembering those I've lost and watching those I know continue the fight (either for their health, neutral status rights, anti-discrimination, and frequently all of the above), and respecting those in health care meeting the daily challenges of conscientious care and life (and sometimes death) with dignity.

Although he's been dead for almost 15 years, one person is a constant companion.  I met him when I was a senior in high school and it was one of those rare relationships that you know each other when you meet.  Actually, when I walked into his hospital room, we stopped talking to the people we were with and just stared at each other.  It is a moment I will always hold with clarity.  From that moment, we were fast friends and almost constant companions.

He was the first person that "got" me, somehow understood me, and didn't judge me.  And he told me, I was the first person who saw through the status and saw the person.  Actually, the status never really mattered to me.  I mean, of course it mattered.  In that it was the early 90s, and people with HIV didn't have the life expectancy they have now.  HIV/AIDS was still a death sentence then.  And for him, he'd been diagnosed years prior in the mid 80s, so there was limited time.  But, it was never an identifying factor.  We were committed to making the best of the time we were given.  And, in the end, the status, was only a very small issue.

As is common in those relationships with limited time, you find ways to overlook the "normal" things that would bother you.  It doesn't seem worth it to argue over the dishes left in the sink when you're just grateful to share a meal.  And you find that holding hands and talking can be the most intimate of moments.

We had a very limited time together.  Only three years.  But in that three years, we learned, laughed, and loved in a way that I've never recaptured.  I miss him.  Everyday.  But, on World AIDS Day, I reflect on him, us, and what we learned:

1.  Appreciate every single moment you have with the people you love.

2.  Be happy in what you're doing.  If you're not, try to change it.  If you can't change it, float through, until you can.

3.  Find your peace.  And take a minute to enjoy that everyday.

4.  Look outward with love.  What you put out is what you get back.

From the outside, reading this list. . .it sounds pithy.  But, the older I get, the truer I find it.  Of all the people I've lost, this was the most devastating.  But, it was also the most peaceful loss in that we loved what we had, shared what we could, and became better people because of each other.

Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever. ~Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross