Thursday, November 30, 2006

Remembering a Friend—and a Prayer

To me, they were perhaps the most handsome and successful family in the congregation. Both were tall and slim, educated and refined. Their two daughters, a bit older that my two sons, had inherited their parents’ physical attractiveness. They seemed to be a family with many blessings.

My family was in St. Louis where I was attending seminary when we heard that this blessed family had split up. A “quiet” divorce, we were told. It didn’t make sense to me, but at that stage of my life, no divorce made sense. If someone had told me then that, after thirty years of marriage, I would be divorced, I would have laughed at the idea.

Since he worked for a non-profit organization with historic ties to my denomination, I ran into him occasionally over the next few years. At some point in the brief conversations that he and I had during those meetings, I somehow confirmed that the rumors were true: he had divorced his wife in order to move in with his gay boyfriend. I did not judge his actions any more than I judged my ex-wife’s actions when she told me that she was gay. That’s just the way life is. After all, Jesus said: Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. (Matt 7:1-2)

A few years before I left my first pastorate to pastor a church in Louisville, my wife and I ran into him at Indiana University. He didn’t look well; he appeared to be quite sick. As we were driving home, my wife said that, later in the day, she had spoken with him. He had told her that he was dying. “Is it cancer?” she asked. “No,” he said, “but I really wish it were cancer. I have AIDS.”

That was almost twenty years ago. Now, each December 1st, when World AIDS Day comes around, I think of him. He was first the person I knew to die of AIDS. He wasn’t the last. And I pray that some day soon a true cure will be found so that no more folks die of this terrible illness.



  1. I didn't realize tomorrow was World Aid's Day, thank you for reminding me. Even though I don't know your friend, that post really got to me.

  2. I'm so sorry to hear of your friend's passing. My cousin passed away from AIDS. It's just a shame that a lot of good people get plagued with this. Thank you for sharing this story.

    It's sometimes difficult to hear when someone you love...loves someone else. So I can see if your wife said she was gay, that you would have judged her...due to your love towards her. Totally understandable. With anyone else, it's no big deal.

    Hope you're doing well! Thanks for reminding me about tomorrow.

  3. A boy I went to school with died of AIDS in the early 1980s. Nobody really knew what it was. It was called GRID at the time, for Gay Related Immune Disease. They changed the name later.

    His mother still tells people he died of cancer.

  4. Thanks for the reminder . . . I saw Magic Johnson on TV the other day and he has lived 15 years with HIV. You are right, and we need a cure. Right now they can just help people live with it, but can't cure it.
    People in Africa and the poor and uninsured here in the U.S.A. don't have the same access to those drugs.
    The World Health Organization describes Africa as having the highest rates of HIV infection in the world - an estimated one in 40 adults - and predicts that by the end of the century there will be half a million deaths a year.

  5. I, too, have known people who died from AIDS. It's so sad that we do so little to find a real cure for this. And it's so horribly expensive for the stuff that just keeps HIV patients barely going from day to day.

  6. Am sorry about those you have lost in your life, Nick. & you are correct we can not judge- but we can give good council & care.

  7. hugs to you and for you friend.

  8. Thanks for remembering your friend.

  9. I think I know to whom you refer. If I'm right, his death was a tragedy.