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Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away"

Sail away, sail away, sail away...

And so ended the memorial service for Ty. I cherished the vision of him sailing on his way to a place free from suffering, wasting away, being drawn away from us on a quiet tide. Sail away, sail away, sail away. I hear it now in my heart and my head and it brings tears, as the song always does.

Thirty years ago this week five men were identified as "patient zero's" -- two of them had already died -- men suffering with a mysterious kind of pneumonia and others with an unusual cancer, origin unknown.

Thirty years. 1981. Young men were dying. Thirty years of grief and loss. I'm not even going to write about numbers of deaths, there are too too many. Young wonderful vital creative and loving men who were dentists and chefs and neuro-scientists and musicians and playwrights and football players and salesmen and physicians and engineers. They were sons and brothers and lovers and fathers and uncles and husbands.

And nothing they did made them deserve the excruciating deaths. Or their sickness.

Because of where I lived at the time and with whom I hung out, the nature of the church congregation I served, our location in the midst of the epidemic, and our choice to host support groups and information sessions my primary association with AIDS and HIV was with gay men.

Too many hospital visits - but they were better than the home visits only because by the time my friends were at home they were in a basically hospice, palliative mode, near death. It was a terrible death. Terrible.

And they are gone. Gone.

But we remember. We remember. We remember Ty, and Dan, and so many more.

And we remember their loving families. Frank and Elise and Mary and Colleen epitomize the extravagance of love that was given to brothers, uncles, sons as they died. They enacted the story of the woman who lavished her love, her perfume oil on Jesus as she washed his feet. I remember being there as Frank cared for his brother and feeling I was as near to the presence of God as I'd ever been. This was the heart of God.

So, blessedly washed, oiled, and dearly loved, Ty and too many of his peers sailed away from us to a far shore where, one so wants to believe, their bodies are free from sores and scars and lungs filled with fluid and painful, ugly lesions, from disease and hurt and isolating existential loneliness.

May they all be one, gathered together at feasts of abundance (think of the food!) and spectacular music and excellent wine, and at peace.

And may all who live with grief know how much they mattered, how they too are remembered for their lavish gifts of love upon their loved ones.

We live with loss. But we can remember. And be grateful for the time we had. The lives we shared.

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