I don’t know where this blog is going. I do know that there are several to whom I need to pay respect. These are ones whom I have loved and have loved me back. I pray I am able to get through this particular page, without crying too much. I pray that I don’t have to add to this page any time soon, if at all.
I can hope and pray, can’t I?
I guess my first dedication in order of their deaths is Andrew Marchant: While homeless on the streets of Staten Island, he and I became the bestest of buds. He was a hispanic, flamboyantly gay person, who befriended me in a soup kitchen. We shared our meals in the soup kitchen on the hill, and stole extra sandwiches and stuck them in our pockets so we would have enough to get us through the night. He lived in an abandoned shack by the ferry, and he could talk smack with the best of them. He is one of the few who said “she’ll be back”, when I went off to drug rehab. I wouldn’t come back for three years. But, by that time he was dead. Dead on a living-room floor in the dark. He was so embarrassed by the Kaposis Sarcoma lesions on his body. I would leave my job to sit with him in the dark and talk with him. More on that at a later time.
And then there was Warren, my husband, who I met in drug rehab. He was my “Mr. Rogers”, and as much as I tried to provoke him, he wouldn’t raise a hand to me (because I was so used to being abused). He would tear pages out of Time Magazine, so my eyes wouldn’t have to look at the horrid pictures of the African children with flies in their eyes. He said: “you look at the world through rose colored glasses”…and so, every now and then pages would be torn out. Damn you for being so proud, and so afraid, and so filled with shame that you wouldn’t take your meds. You left me alone to raise our son. I share stories about you with him all the time. I think he is taller than you. He is a good human being…and I have been to Africa twice and held those children in my arms. I miss you every day. Maybe if I stop missing you, someone else will come into my life. I dedicate this to you. You gave me my voice, because you withheld yours.
And, Donna. I don’t know her last name. She lived right next door to Transfiguration. Very skinny, no electricity in her home, and she didn’t bathe often, but I would speak to her every time I passed by her house as she sat on the stoop. She always asked me for cigarettes, and one day I sat with her on her stoop…and then another day, she invited me inside…and I was appalled, but I didn’t bat an eye. Her husband was mean to her and didn’t want her to have friends. One day, I asked her to come to church and she said no, she kept saying no…she was so embarrassed. But I wanted her to get some of what I got…Jesus. I guess I finally wore her down. She finally came inside, and everyone embraced her, and she was happy. She began doing little things in church. I came to seminary, and later found out that she died. I was sad, but happy that for a little bit of time, she found acceptance and love. And yes, she was infected with HIV.
sigh…and Dina. Whom I visited in a shell of a hospital in Namibia. Eight in a small room, with holes in the walls. I would hold her hand and bend down and whisper in her ear: “this is your sister from America”… I have HIV and I love you…she squeezed my hand, and we sang to her. She died. I remember the looks of her family as I was introduced to them, before seeing her. They couldn’t believe I had the “sickness”. sigh *** Seeing that, drove home the seriousness of having HIV in Africa.
Judi…Judi…Judi. I met her during the same trip, at an HIV Support Group. I managed to break away from the group’s itinerary to sit in this group, but every little group I would go over to meet, I would be met with cold stares. I don’t blame them. But it was the last group of women, and Judi who would boldly ask me: “So, how did you get it” looking me up and down. I said “I got it in the street, being homeless and getting high”. The women’s faces beamed, and Judi said: “Yes, we know that life”… None of them could afford medication. And you had to be diagnosed with a CD4 under 200, which meant you had full blown AIDS. Such a shame. Judi suffered with yeast in her mouth, over and over. I had bottles and bottles of diflucan in my room, and was able to sneak her away. When she entered my room and saw ALL my medication, she was amazed. I was filled with guilt. So, I gave her a bottle. She also managed to get away with some thong underwear (TMI, I know…and they were brand new). She was so thankful for the medicine and tickled about the underwear. I found out in 2006 at the International World AIDS Conference from Bishop Phaswana, that she had died.
So, there: this is dedicated to you all…each of you have been a part of my formation as I began my own journey into fighting the stigma, and the shame, and the guilt and the pain. I’m done, for now. Time for sleep. Tomorrow’s another day.