At some level all of us know we’re going to die. But for most of us, most the time, death seems distant, something far away in the future. Knowing that makes the task of getting on with life easier.
But for those who were the first to contract the disease, living with AIDS must have been extraordinarily challenging indeed and that’s what I tried to capture a bit in last week’s chapter. And yet if the fear of death made living with AIDS hard, indifference made it harder still and that’s what the remaining chapters of our story will explore.
By the way, that image above doesn’t capture just how chilling that exchange was. You really have to listen to it to get the full effect. So I invite you to click on the image or follow this link and decide for yourself if you think I’m being too harsh in my assessment of Reagan and his political cronies as you read the remaining chapters.
For now, however, let’s briefly recap what we learned last week. For one thing, we learned Jimmy often disappeared into his room for hours on end to be by himself as the months passed.
Sensing Jimmy was pulling away, Jeff learned from Leo that Jimmy often prayed when he was alone. When he pursued the matter, Jeff also learned Jimmy had rediscovered the God of his youth, a fearsome, judgmental, God.
Is it any wonder then that Jimmy might conclude that he was destined to burn in Hell forever for his sins?
In an effort to help, Jeff asked around among his friends and was directed to a priest who worked at the Newman Center at American University. Having arranged to meet with Father Damien, Jeff was surprised at just how non-traditional the young priest was. Nonetheless, he sought his help.
At Jeff’s suggestion, Jimmy decided to go to confession. Jeff took him to a church across town where Father Damien sometimes helped out. Jimmy made his confession that evening and was surprised at just how kindly he was treated by Father Damien.
The chapter ended on a happier note, with Jimmy commenting on how much love and support he was receiving from those surrounding him. If nothing else, the chapter was an impressive demonstration of just how much Jeff loves Jimmy.
Putting aside his own personal beliefs (or non-belief in this case), he found a way to help Jimmy make peace with God; and he did so in a way that was an affirmation of everything people hope for in their savior.
Instead of a judgmental God ready to consign him to an eternity in Hell, Jimmy was introduced to a more forgiving and loving God.
Not every AIDS patient was as fortunate, of course.
Between bickering relatives, an often indifferent medical system, a Federal government that was actively hostile, and a disease that was cruel and horrific, many AIDS patients spent the final months of their lives dealing with agonizing conditions no human being should have to suffer.
Thanks for your leadership, Ronnie and Nancy. NOT!
In any event, I’ve posted Chapter 27. Let’s be thankful as the holidays approach that Jimmy has the support of loving friends.