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Random Wisdom

“With the first link, a chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” — Jean-Luc Picard

Some Lessons Learned Too Late.

By J. D. Moss
The Texas Triangle 1993

              We were told a car pulled up in front of the hospital to deposit a young man who had become sick. The driver of the car claimed to be a friend, yet would not give his name nor would he stay. The man he brought in had no identification and was unconscious. It took a social worker three days to find out that the sick man was my brother, Ronald and to call my mom. That was when we found out Ronald had AIDS.

            They say that at some time you will have someone close to you infected with AIDS. You hear this, yet try not to think about it. To talk about it is depressing, so for the most part you push the subject aside, until it hits home. I have been through the pain of the death of a best friend and the death of my grandfather. As much as the other deaths hurt me, Ronald’s death made me think. Made me think about the way we treat those we love as well as those we do not know.

            I look at how fear and a lack of understanding can cut at the heart. Ronald died alone. Oh, we were there at the end, but he died alone. Part of this was his choice, yet it was also the choice of those he loved.

            Ronald was gay. He came out early and he came out ready to battle the prejudices that he knew would be there. He thought he could handle it, yet he underestimated how deep that fear and prejudice was. He fought and lost.

            One of the battles he lost was with his family. Some refused to have anything to do with him. Ronald was “perverted.” Some tried to help him be “normal”, yet soon gave up. To this day you can’t say his name without someone walking out of the room or crying, wondering what went wrong.    

            Next he lost with the church; they excommunicated him. He was a sinner. Once he was no longer a member, most of his friends at the church disappeared from his life, leaving him isolated from his faith and friends.

            Ronald also lost his battle at school. His peers would call him names and push him around. They didn’t want a “queer” around them. The worst pain he suffered at school was when a number of football players wouldn’t let him on the field to graduate with the rest of his class. They threatened him with his life if he tried to go on. So, while his family waited for him to cross the stage when his name was called, he cowered behind the bleachers, turning a day he had been so excited about into a nightmare he never would forget. That was a very lonely day for him – one of many.

            I have to admit sadly that I did not react well either. I, who should have underst­ood, did not. As time went on I came around, as did most of us – but only to a point. We all tried to replace what had been lost, yet were unable to heal such deep wounds.

            My mom and I were the only ones who stayed in remote contact with him. My brother and I did not communicate often, yet when we did talk we spent a lot of time discussing the past. I apologized for my lack of support and he seemed to appreciate that.

            We had planned for me to spend a weekend with him. It was to be the first time in years that I had seen him. That was the weekend he died and I did see him again, when I carried his coffin to his grave.

            The funereal was small. Family showed their support. We cried, we talked, we argued, we loved. Most of the talk was not as much about him as it was about us and perhaps that is how most funerals are meant to be; yet I felt guilty that we were together and Ronald was still alone.

            He had been working to patch things up with my mother and father. My mom was the one who kept in close contact with him. They talked every month or so – Ronald wasn’t good at keeping in touch. He wrote my father and my father wrote him. My dad showed me both letters. They shared words of love, support and apology.

            I was the last family member to talk to my brother. He still carried the pain of how some members of the family still treated him. I told him to be thankful for the progress that had been made. That it would take more time to work things out. I did not understand his desperate need to find instant acceptance was because he knew he did not have any time left.

            Any story about someone dying of AIDS is a sad one; however there also can be great hope and love in that sadness. When we found out Ronald was in the hospital he was already in a coma and never regained consciousness before he died. There was no time to find hope and love in his death. The lesson of accepting those you love was lost on most, yet not all. Any lesson we learned came too late for Ronald, maybe too late for us.

            As I write I cry tears of regret. Every time I think of my brother I cry. I cry because we had not seen him in 8 years when he died. I cry because the only picture anyone has of him is 12 years old. I cry because I loved him, but maybe not enough. I cry because there are a lot more Ronalds in this world. I cry for them and their families.

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