The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

TO STEVE

Today is the 30th anniversary of my friend Steve’s death.  He died from AIDS which he contracted through a blood transfusion he received during the course of an operation.   He was 28 years old.

We went on a picnic together to one of the beautiful forest preserves in Cook County and after we had finished eating and were enjoying the late spring day Steve looked at me and said, “I have something to tell you.  I have AIDS – and you might not want to be around me because you might be afraid of getting it.”

I was shocked and angry at this statement.  Shocked that he had contracted this disease and mad that he had gotten it as a result of the surgery he had undergone.  I was shocked that Steve thought me so shallow that I would abandon him and our friendship because of his illness and mad at myself that I might have ever given him a reason to believe that.

We hugged and we both cried.  At that point, having AIDS was a short-term death sentence without possibility of parole or reprieve.  I didn’t want to ask the question, “How much time do you have?” but I knew that it wasn’t going to be long.  As it turned out the disease took less than eight months to do its deadly work.

During the time between the picnic and his death, Steve and I grew even closer than we were before.  In that time I saw this handsome, athletic man go from 170 pounds to less than 110.  I saw the ravages of the disease sapping his strength, forcing him to leave his apartment where he lived alone, into hospital beds and finally into the hospice where he would die.

Steve struggled every day to wake to another day.  He didn’t easily relinquish his short life to the reaper.  But the death sentence had been pronounced and then it was executed.

At his funeral service I read this Dylan Thomas poem:

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This post is dedicated with love to Steve and to all those who have died from AIDS. 

May you be in a better place.

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