People all the time say to me I represent the war on AIDS to them. That is not a damn thing to be proud of. I have just lost lovers, friends and fools in my life. Lord, I miss them all. My eulogy script satchel holds well over 300 missives. This is the 25th anniversary of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. You know them from the pharmacies, Magic Johnson Clinics, Out of the Closet stores and so much more. Check out a poem written by AHF’s late co-founder, Chris Brownlie. It makes me warm and makes me cry.
It is a whimper and a scream.
It is the brush of a branch on the screen of your window, a rustle, a rattle.
It is being in your center and being so far from your center
that you don’t know if you’ll ever find your way back.
It is relentless. It is daunting, a great mountain which you must climb.
It is sweating, bleeding, puking in ways you never have before.
It is pain you never imagined.
It is fear you never dreamed.
It is grief you never guessed.
It is the frenzy of medicine.
It is too many visits to the outpatient clinic.
The two days in the hospital for tests.
The weeks for the treatments.
It is the doctor’s kindness, the nurse’s caring.
It is the doctor’s prodding, the nurse’s poking.
It is the manic need to make your mark.
To leave some worthwhile trace of yourself behind.
It is shattering denial every time the symptoms of another infection begin to mount.
It is the loneliness, like the whistle of a train passing in the dark night of your soul.
It is caring for your friends in ways you never have.
Intimate ways, horrible ways.
Ways that take more of your love than you knew you had.
It is being there when the coma comes.
It is begging in your heart for some little piece of mercy.
It is going to the church, or the park or the beach to say:
“Farewell and Godspeed, beloved one.”
It is waking up wet, so wet, wetter than you were at birth.
It is having your skull split by its swollen lining.
It is changing your sheets because the stench woke you up.
It is anger, weird quirky anger,
that knocks you off your pins and makes you doubt your own judgments.
It is not knowing the difference between your needs and your desires.
It is being disoriented by the force of the great emotional wind,
which is constantly blowing within you.
It is the fighting back.
It is the building of places to care for the living and the dying.
It is courage, it is honor, it is integrity.
It is people joining forces in a time of great need.
It is hope, it is sharing the burden.
It is people caring for their own and finding love.
It is surviving and believing in the future,
even when we are hurting more than we have ever hurt before.
It is bearing the unbearable,
enduring the unendurable
and hoping in the face of hopelessness.
It is the haunted look in your loved one’s eyes when a new crisis begins.
It is mourning together.
It is holding them in your arms and in your heart.
It is crying because your heart is breaking over leaving them behind.
It is the sweet pain of knowing that you are dying
and the overwhelming sadness of those who will kiss you into their dreams.
It is a wail.
It is a howl.
It is beyond our grasp.
It is awful.
It is awesome.
It is AIDS.