Angels Among Us

I come from a place where AIDS was something unspoken of.

Death was all around and it was obvious what it's cause was and yet silence.  People would give all kinds of explanations to save face.  Headache was a common one.  But even as a young kid in the early 90's, I knew people didn't die from headaches at such alarming rates.  Another was malaria which is a common illness where I am from but even that couldn't cover up the lie.

I left my country in 1993 as a 17 year old when the epidemic was at it's genesis.  Years later as I listened to a friend terrified of going to see a doctor even though she was 5 months pregnant, I finally had an Aha moment.  I didn't understand why she was so terrified and was putting her child in jeopardy when she finally blurted out, "You weren't there! You didn't see what we saw. After you left people we know were dying every single day and I saw them wasting away."  It's true I wasn't there and I didn't see it up close and personal.  Even though she was in the land of the best but most expensive healthcare in the world, her fear of a blood test and what the results could possibly bring paralyzed her.  I got it.  She put it all in focus for me.

There was such a stigma to go with it.  You were dying because of sex.  That's what it came down to. Whether it was sex you chose or sex brought into your home from your spouse to a clueless partner, you were dying.

Four years ago I was still healing from a terrible chapter in my life when an angel walked in.  I recognized him as "my people" and someone from my tribe right away and fell in love with his soul. We never ever had surface conversations.  From jump street we went deep with it.  He would sing to me, build me up in moments of despair, and our conversations felt like a prayer.  I would exhale after each one and know I was better off for having it.

I don' think there is anything he cannot do.  I watched him put on a concert and just move us, the entire audience to tears with his angelic voice.  And then he got to preaching and let me tell you, I knew our conversations were prayers but I had no idea that he could stand behind a pulpit and preach like the best of them! I walked out of there like such a proud Mama.  Then one day he told me he wanted to do makeup and went ahead and bought some makeup and got to practicing.  Just like that, he is now a Bona Fide makeup artist.  He makes women feel their best.  I felt like Naomi/Trya/Lupita the day he beat my face.

I was scrolling through my Facebook one day and he had a status update about being a survivor and something told me to ask him about it.  He told me that he had been diagnosed with HIV many years ago and was now living with AIDS.

Because of where I am from and how AIDS had been handled from my recollection, I should have panicked and done the ever so common human fade out and stopped answering his calls or acted like he did not exist.

Something remarkable happened that day. All I felt was this immense feeling of compassion for this man, my friend.  My friendship deepened that day and I learned an amazing life lesson.  Fear makes us miss out on so much that we do not have to.  Had AIDS been treated as a compassion illness and not a fear illness back when I first heard of it, it would not have the stigma it has today.

Living in your truth should be a lesson for us all.  Because of my friend and how he spoke his truth with no fear, no hesitation, and with nothing but love, my reaction was that of the same.  Living in fear and in a lie causes nothing but chaos.

Things have changed so much in my country now.  I remember speaking to my Mother about a decade ago and her telling me how she works with a group called "Living with AIDS."  When I saw video and saw people speaking so freely about living with AIDS, I was ecstatic and floored at once. I am so happy at our progress. Many are still living with fear and not living in their truth so we still have a ways to go. The stigma lives on as evidenced by Charlie Sheen's recent annoucement.

I thank God for sending my angel, my beautiful Dougie and all the lessons he has taught me about this life and living it out loud oh so fabulously.  He didn't crumble and think his life was over.  He believed and trusted in God even more and started his next chapter.  I salute you my friend.


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