This article was written not long ago
And each word is true
But held unprinted because I did not want
To bring added sorrow to the grieving family.
The obituary was but a name, five lines, and twenty-nine carefully chosen words. Such a small space to tell of a man who had been my friend, and I sorrowed that his bright personality was no more, and was surprised to realize it had been 15 or more years since we had talked.
It didn’t say how he died, and it didn’t matter, for to-day we all recognize those short, terse obits and cringe within for, when no cause of death is given, almost always we ‘know’ that AIDS was the culprit.
And my heart ached for the sorrowing family because they had none of the consolation most people have of talking with others over the details of ‘how it happened’.
We’ve all experienced deaths which have torn us apart, and I’ve been surprised to find how much healing comes from being able to talk about it with others. How the very act of discussing the illness and death, does miracles in healing the broken heart.
But getting back to those ‘twenty-nine words’. I thought that time, and more knowledge about AIDS, would change our attitude about it and HIV, but the answer is still the same. Death by this scourge remains ‘different’, and met with silence.
No one wants to talk about it. There is fear and those left behind not only have their grief, but the added sorrow of the silence that envelopes such deaths from others. And also the sad knowledge that, of course, people know and speak to others about it.
Attitudes, however, do change, for I remember one night as a child and overheard my parents talking in low tones. They thought we kids were asleep, but I wasn’t and overheard their words.
Someone we knew had died of cancer, and hard to believe, but cancer was then a no-no disease, and it was a good, freeing day when the words “died of cancer” first began appearing in obituaries. For it showed people no longer had to suffer and die in fear and shame because of one more whispered disease.
But AIDS remains this age’s ‘leprosy’. Not to be spoken, and fear strikes our hearts if and when we find that someone we know has the disease, or is HIV positive. We are torn between, “Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know” and “For heaven’s sake, how could such a thing happen?”
AIDS is a world-wide disease and near epidemic in some countries. We’d better get our heads on straight, and the sooner the better, because, if you haven’t already been faced with the disease, and death, of someone you know well, from AIDS, you will, for it’s bound to happen, and they need our love and hugs just the same as any grief stricken person.
We’ve long known it’s not just a Gay disease, and that it does happen to so-called ‘nice’ people. In fact, it happens so often to just ‘every-day people’ that I never have a nurse, doctor or dentist put a needle into me without the fleeting thought of, “Is the needle clean?” Too many diseases, and not only of AIDS, have been traced back to some mistake in a medical area. Never maliciously, just one of those accidents that do happen.
The obit I write about was for a wonderful person. We once laughed together, exchanged ideas, and when our pathways went different ways, I wondered how life was going for him.
Well, that obit told me. AIDS had entered his life and once that happens there is no time or energy left for anyone or anything else. Life becomes a cruel struggle for survival, and with today’s treatments, the person lives longer, but the expense and suffering is terrible . And everyone knows what the end will be. Sometimes sooner and sometimes later, but it matters not, for the end is chiseled in stone.
I’d like whoever placed that obit to know, that I, too, loved and still remember that man and thank them for publishing those few lines. So small a token to mark the life of a lovely, intellectual, once happy man. Yes, I know that this too, shall pass, but when? For while we hear less and less about it, AIDS is not gone. Just ‘pushed under the rug’ and continues its deadly way.