On December 1, I posted a photo to Facebook literally announcing to the world that my father died of AIDS. I received a lot of support for doing so, including the great post above.
But not everyone was so supportive or thinks that my father is resting in peace.
Today, I received some backlash and of course it had to come from a member of my ‘family.’
One of my father’s sisters called me today to tell me to “let my brother rest in peace” and that I shouldn’t have him on Facebook talking about how he died. Mind you, this phone call woke me up out of my sleep. I didn’t even respond. I hung up while she was still talking.
Why wouldn’t he be resting in peace because I shared his disease to people?
My life and the events thereof are mine to share as I see fit. Today, I want to share WHY I decided to share my father’s death to the world.
First, it is a matter of public record. Anyone could locate his death certificate if they really wanted to do so. Secondly, he has been dead for 21 years. Thirdly, I was reading so much about world AIDS day which prompted me to think about him more than usual. (I already think about him everyday. I tell my kids about him. I have pictures of him in my home. My kids act as if they know him.) But that day my mind was stayed on him.
Lastly, and most importantly, ever since I was a girl I have wanted to do something to help and be involved with the AIDS community. My cousin Mylon and I have talked for years about how we can help. We both plan to collaborate on some things in the future to help people affected by this disease. This cause is special to him as well as he is a member of the LGBT community and he knows all to well how AIDS has affected that community. He has lost friends to the disease.
It is not enough to know someone who has or has had AIDS and to simply be silent. Silence does NOTHING. Speaking out can help someone. I confronted my shame by telling the world essentially (my own little Facebook world) that my father had AIDS. That was a shameful thing to me for a long time. I want people to know that it is NOTHING to be ashamed of. It is a disease just like cancer, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis or any other disease with no cure. It affect lots of people, but most importantly it affects BLACK people more than anyone else. How dare I act as if this disease didn’t impact my life? Trust me, I wish I never had to say that my father was dead, let alone that he died from AIDS.
I wish I would have been there with my dad when he was sick. I wasn’t with him as I was with my mom in Chicago. One day in December in 1991 I got a phone call saying he was sick with cancer and a month later I got a phone call that he was dead. My life was forever changed!!! His death literally ruined my life. Not just my life but the lives of my step mother, who became a widow, but also my sister and brother who no longer had a daddy.
I feel it ruined my life because among other things it left me with only a mother who was not able to care for me and resulted in me having to be raised by other people who stepped in (which I certainly appreciate) and won’t let an opportunity pass without reminding me that they did!!! (I really hate when people rub in your face what they did for you. Please don’t do something for someone unless it is from your heart and you have no desire to say ‘I told you so’ or ‘look at all I have done for you.’)
But I digress!
AIDS is real. It is not silent. It is a LOUD, BOISTEROUS epidemic on MY community, MY race, MY people. If me sharing my father’s death causes someone to go get tested, causes someone to encourage someone else to get tested and to act responsibly, I WILL SCREAM IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS. And I don’t care who has a problem with it.
I’m living my life like it’s golden and on MY OWN TERMS and I couldn’t care less who takes issue with it.
I will end by saying that the person who called me today hadn’t spoken to me in months and could not even pick up a phone to call and say ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ but could call to tell me that I should “let her brother rest in peace.” He may have been her brother but he was MY FATHER and I think that trumps that!!! I guess there is still some shame left about his death in my ‘family’ after all.
One thing I remember about my Daddy was that he said what was on his mind. He didn’t pull punches. I am my father’s daughter, after all!!!!
If you have been impacted by AIDS in one way or another I encourage you to SPEAK OUT. You may save a life. Donate your time or finance to AIDS related charities in your area. Visit the hospitals. Anything to let someone know that instead of dying from AIDS they can LIVE!!!
Thanks to everyone who encouraged me and supported my choice to share that part of my life. I appreciate the support so much.
The fact that strangers offer me support that my ‘family’ can’t/won’t/refuse to speaks volumes to me and means more to me that words can ever express.