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Vacation Did Not Start Out as Planned

This One's for You, Tommy

I carry around an old, creased, stained letter in my purse all the time. It's from my dearly departed friend Tom, who was my first close gay friend and the first person I knew personally to die from AIDS.

I love this letter. When I'm feeling lost, I pull it out of purse and read it. It comforts me, inspires me, and also makes me cry a little.

It's dated January 5, 1994. In it, Tommy talks about getting his AIDS diagnosis confirmed (he'd been HIV+ since 1986), his decision to go on permanent disability, and how he copes.

I have two favorite parts in the letter. The first -- only one sentence! -- explains how he decided to go on disability:

The deciding factor was a pair of dreams showing my old career as a coffin and disability as an infinite field of stars.

 Seems pretty decisive to me.

The second part is a longer, contemplative paragraph that describes his philosophy for dealing with his disease -- and really, his entire life.

Part of my understanding of the ways of Spirit is that the Universe presents me with challenges and it is up to me to glean whatever meaning and growth I can gain from those challenges. Like an athlete in training, undertaking ever harder feats of prowess, and relying the skill built from past successes in preparation for each new test, I believe I am growing stronger and wiser through these challenges. This general perspective helps me a lot. Unlike the athlete, however, I am not in control of the schedule or intensity of the challenges which arrive in my life. Some people do get crushed by life; fortunately I'm being guided even though I have stepped in the mire of AIDS. Let me learn my lessons, even including death if need be (but I expect to be around another few years at least).

Tommy died six months later.

He ends his letter by saying:

I'm working on two spiritual retreats for gay men. As we try to heal, the Christian right has been on a new crusade against us. I'm hoping for more tolerance in 1994.

Well, my darling Tommy, that tolerance finally mostly got here. The Christian right is still at it, but they are losing out to love. I hope you're smiling from your part of the Universe.