I went outside with the dogs and sat down on the steps in the cold air and sunshine. As they moved around, sniffing every little scent in the yard, I suddenly became overwhelmed by the gravity of the day. I remembered Ralph, then Jorge, then Dip, then Kenny, Jamie, Jim, Johnny, and the ones who died after they had left the sphere of my life: Charly, Randy, sweet Thomas…so many handsome and kind young men who were victims of timing. Donald, my dear friend, died a year and a half ago. Most died before there were viable treatments for AIDS, others died when their medications failed them.
My tears came hot and salty, stinging and turning cold down my face, as I wished there were someone here to hug and hold until this sadness passed. My dogs soon noticed my sobs and came to me, showing compassion in a way that only a dog can do…pawing at me with a look of deep concern in their eyes over my wailing. I guess I am anthropomorphizing, but they are a small comfort, nonetheless, when faced with the overwhelming grief over the death of most of my friends.
I have learned that I do not like December. First it starts with World AIDS Day and it sets a black tone for me that does not lift until after the New Year. On the 8th, I recognize my father’s birthday and recall his sweetness during the last six months of his life and the struggles we had before he learned of his own mortality. On the 12th, I recall having been told 20 years ago that I had tested positive for HIV. Then the birthday of my twin brothers, who died three hours into life two years before I came along. Had they lived, I might not have been here to tell this story now.
The absolute worst December event for me is Christmas. It is such a hollow promise. I have had endless debates with my family about celebrating a holiday that means little to me. I find the rampant commercialism of the day disgusting. All that money and all those gifts that should make me feel fortunate can do little to hold back the true wish I have for the day. I want my friends back and that wish can not be fulfilled, can it? No amount of spending can bring them back.
Additionally, as a human being who is living my life as genuinely as possible, I am feeling assaulted by the fundamentalist Christians out there who condemn me for who I am. It makes me wonder what Christ would have to say to us all. Is He in their camp? It seems to me that He would not have been among them, but would have been standing with me and my friends saying that Love is Truth, and that God is Love and that Love can Heal…The claiming of Christ’s message by fundamentalists who spread fear makes Christmas very hollow for me because the message I am getting from the religious community is that I should just die and get it over with, to stoke the fires of their Hell. I doubt that Christ would view my desire to belong as a full-fledged member of society as a desire for “Special Rights”. In the past, I used to come home on Christmas night and sob myself to sleep. I have managed not to do that lately, but I feel the hypocrisy of the holiday season every year.
If you too have felt the sting of our commercial world at holiday time, consider making donations to AIDS charities instead, or give money to Heifer International so that people living in poverty around the world can find a way of providing some of their own food. There are many better ways to celebrate this end of the year than by purchasing the latest fads of clothing and electronics. I tried this within my family years ago, and I felt better to say, “I bought a flock of ducks for a family in Peru in your name,” rather than emptily trading gift certificates. It is nice to share a meal with my family, and that is enough. Unfortunately, my gifts that year were not as appreciated by others as by me.
I think that when all humanity is celebrated, this month will feel more appropriate to me than it does now. If we can live with one another, without a need to degrade or reject anyone, we will have made progress and I will then look upon December with more hope.
Categories: HIV/AIDS December World+AIDS+Day unfettered+capitalism loss sadness emptiness friends favorites