C died Friday. Two days ago. This has been the longest two days of my life. I was with her when she died. I was holding her hand, talking to her. I had asked her to hold my hand, and I really do think she tried. Her fingers curled around mine at any rate, but that could have just been a muscle spasm. When she stopped breathing, I waited for a few seconds for her to breathe in again. She had been gasping for breath for almost three days by then. We were told it was because of the pain medication she was on. I called the nurse when I could not feel her pulse.
I’ve been told that it is an honor to be with someone when they die, and be there to help them transition from this dimension into the next. I’m sure I’ve said it myself, at least a few times. Problem is, I don’t feel honored at all. I feel betrayed. I’m angry, and get angrier every day. I’d like to say I don’t know why, but I do.
See, Cece kept secrets. From me, from Craig, from her family. Even from herself, I believe. Now that it is all said and done, I can finally begin to really examine my friend, and analyze our relationship. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I knew about my best friend. Because she kept secrets, even when there was no need. Even though she knew I would love her regardless.
This weekend also marks the 30th anniversary of public awareness of the disease that came to be known as AIDS. The CDC report stated, “5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California.” Nobody knew what caused it, or from where it began. Everything was speculation. News reports conflicted, research was non-existent. There was nothing. Nothing but ignorance, intolerance and fear as the public was consistently misinformed and dis-informed about the disease. I watched as religious and political leaders condemned as sinners and heathens ALL of the LGBT community, and began to inhibit any effort to thwart the spread of the disease. Because, of course, at the time it was called “Gay Cancer”.
Then, the women and children began to die.
I charged into the fray late in the game. I had heard of AIDS, and had watched closely as conflicting reports and ignorance-driven horror stories fed into the fear and increasingly developing hatred of gay men and everything they were and stood for.
I established my first long-term relationship with a gay man in 1986, and that friendship lasts until today. I found myself deeply immersed in gay culture. As a result, I was forced to address my personal ignorance and prejudices, not only about the LGBT community, but about the world at large. By 1990, I had become a volunteer counselor with Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN, now Nevada AIDS Project). I made so many friends, and loved so many people.
Then, I began losing them. I remember most of them even today after all this time. I still love them deeply, and miss them terribly.
I think that’s all I can manage today.