I want to talk to you about inspiration, about those people that have touched your life and have shown you that there is strength and power by living through or overcoming a personal tragedy. I know you have heard me before that I find inspiration in a lot of things that happen around me. But there is so much more to my story that I think you might find interesting. I would like to take you back 22 years with me into my personal history. There is a story there that needs to be retold. I am sure it will enlighten a great many of you, and explain some of my more hard to understand habits. To give you a little background filler before I dive into the actual story, I graduated high school in 1986 in June, by September 1986 I was starting my adventure in the Navy.
Just so that you understand this totally, I knew already by that time that I was gay. I embraced my nature and used my time in the Navy to explore my sexuality. You may have heard me say a time or two that I have no regrets and feel no remorse for any of my actions. However, after reading my friends post the other day, and then writing the blog entry "It's never too late to learn something new about ourselves" and then "True Friendship" I began to realize that I do have one regret. One unforgivable action/reaction on my part, that was to have the biggest wide ranging affect on my life. This one deed would change me, it was a defining moment in my history, that changed my outlook on everything, it was the single most terrifying experience of my life, and the horrible and damnable action that ensured that I would never treat anyone cavalierly again.
It was December 1, 1989 my 21st birthday, I had met someone in 1987 when I was first transferred from Great Lakes to Norfolk, VA. He was a marine and at the time I thought he was stationed at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. We really liked each other, but here I was very young and naive and what he was about to tell me that night so long ago changed my life forever. Some of you who are close to me may already know this, so at this point I must ask you to bear with me let me retell the story, because I am sure that there are parts here that you are unaware of. To celebrate my birthday we had gotten a hotel room for the weekend in Norfolk and we had a fun filled fabulous weekend all planned. Both of us were off duty for the weekend and we were going to celebrate my birthday in style. Oh, how I wished that was what happened, but that night as we were getting ready to celebrate my coming of age, I was soaking in the bathtub, we had planned to go out to dinner first and then go to the Oar House, a gay bar in Norfolk, because I could legally drink and enjoy myself. But as I said none of that ever happened.
I am not sure what prompted him to reveal to me that very night what he did, and I guess I will never know the reason why. But as I was sitting there soaking, he came into the bathroom, he had a ring in a little box, as he bent down to give it too me he stopped and kissed me and said, I have to tell you something. I was so excited I immediately begged for him to tell me, and what unfolded pretty much ruined our plans, and certainly my actions doomed the entire relationship in that one instant. He said to me "Bryan, I have to be honest with you, because I love you and want to spend my life with you, but there is something you need to know. I am not stationed at Portsmouth like I let you believe, I am a patient there:" He held my hand and looked me in the eye and I saw tears forming and I got very scared, I begged for him to tell me. This is what he said "I am HIV Positive and I am here for treatment, do you know what HIV is? You do realize that it is going to kill me, I don't know how long I have or how this is all going to pan out, but I want to spend what time I have with you." My heart sank at that moment and we both sat there crying. I tried to be brave, but guess what I didn't understand, I didn't know enough about the disease and I was scared. We stayed in that night, but the next morning I made the single most fatal mistake I could ever make. I made an excuse, took his car and left, I avoided him for the next two days, leaving him a message that I had parked his car at his barracks and had given the keys to the master at arms. He called and called and I wouldn't take his calls, finally I gave in on the third day. We had lunch at the commissary, and he tried to talk to me, reassure me, but again, I was young and very very dumb. I pretended I was listening, I shook my head and made the proper acknowledgements, and then I left. It would be almost 2 months before we would see each other again.
In that two months, I learned everything I could about the disease, I called my mother who was a nurse, I talked to the doctors at the Naval hospital to find out how they were treating him, and when I felt comfortable enough and armed enough with enough knowledge I went back to see him, to apologize for my behavior and my reaction, but fate would have it another way. The drugs they were throwing at patients back then, were nothing like they are now. Doctors had no real idea of what they were doing, and the combination of AZT and other medicines blasted the body, in attempts to kill the virus, but it also destroyed the remaining immune system. Now, realize that 2 months had passed since I was told, and he had found out he was sick 6 months earlier, and by the next month he would be gone forever. Worse than anything, he never ever got to hear my apology, and will never know that the last 2 months of his life I was there with him every day and night around my duty schedule. See, by the time I had finally come to my senses and realized that he needed me and that there was nothing to be afraid of, AIDS related dementia had set in. There were a couple of days when he was lucid and seemed to remember things, but in the end the very last day, his family was there and I walked into the room and he look up and said "Who the fuck are you? and What are you doing here?" I had lost him, he died that afternoon, and never knew how sorry I was, how I regretted my actions, how I robbed him of the only happiness that he wanted. How I cheated him and betrayed his love and trust.
It is because of what happened that day in March 1990 that I changed my life, the way I approached things, I became the person I am today. I dedicated my life to loving and helping others, to care for those sick and to fight for their rights, I marched on Washington with the other people that were affected by HIV/AIDS, I have participated in the PRIDE marches, became an advocate and activist working to find a cure. He was the first person I lost to the disease but unfortunately not the last. In 2002 I lost my one of my best friends he just celebrated his 31st birthday, and there have been so many others. People always want to know why I go out of my way to help others, why I give away everything I have trying to make other peoples lives better, why I reach my hand out to teach them how to take care of themselves and why I struggled to keep people off the street. Here is the reason why! I never got to say good-bye, I never could apologize or take back my actions for deserting my first lover to the cruel clutches of a disease I barely understood. But, I damn well could make up for it and atone for what I did for the rest of my life. It has been 23 years now, and I still feel the same way. But now I am not just affected by the disease I am infected. In December of 2006, I was diagnosed with HIV, I immediately went on the retro-virals and antivirals because of my medical history. I have been undetectable ever since.
In the past I have heard people describe me as being fake and phony, even two-faced, and why? Because everyone thought I was too good to be true, they couldn't believe that I was so nice, they kept trying to see where the other foot was coming down from. Because they believed that no one could be nice and loving and kind like I have been. Over the years many people have taken advantage of my kindness they took it for a weakness and tried to exploit it. Sadly some succeeded, but most came to realize over time, that I was just what I appeared to be, someone who genuinely loved other people, regardless of their health, race, sexual orientation, creed, culture, whatever. Those who took the time to get to know me realized that I was the same year after year and time after time.
Now, I am going to take a minute and pat myself on the back and sing my own praises. I am sure John, Sa'corey, Patrick, Judy, Nathan, Kerrion and others can attest and will tell you I am not lying about this. In my lifetime I have helped hundreds of people, taken them in off the street, giving them food, shelter and whatever else I could to help them, taught them how to look after themselves, some I helped get into school, get a job, or whatever they needed at the time. To the world at large I never let anyone outside of my intimate circle ever know how hard I struggled, how much it cost me, I never had an unkind word to say about anyone, and I gave till it physically hurt me, almost crippled me, but never stopped. I had a job where I was making $150,000.00 a year and literally I gave everything away over and over again. Yes I did drive an Infiniti G-35 and I did make sure I had decent clothes and shoes, but I dedicated my life to helping other people. I didn't realize until recently that other people saw this and drew inspiration from it. That I helped them realize the goodness inside themselves and helped them reach a point in their lives where they wanted to become a better person, they took my life as an example. I am honored and blessed by this, and I think it is a glowing tribute to the person I have become, and shining memorial to the one I lost. But there's more to the story.
In January of 2005, almost 14 years after I was first diagnosed with cancer, which came in 1992 when I was 24 years old and 2 years my beautiful marine had died. I had to have the first of many surgeries which would change my life in another direction forever. This is when I had to have a colostomy put in, for those of you who don't know what a colostomy is, it is a bag that is attached to my stomach where my crap comes out. I know longer have the use of my rectum. But I digress, in January 2005 was the first time that I came face to face with my mortality and it was when God and I had our first talk. Whether you believe me or not, it really doesn't matter, because I believe what happened and that is what governs my life. I died on the operating table and I saw God or an Angel, and I had a long conversation with Him. I was told that my work on Earth was not done that there was a message that I needed to take back with me, and that I needed to keep doing what I was doing but show the world by deed and action as well as through my dedication to helping others, the message was and still is very simple. I was told to tell everyone that they were wrong, had missed the point of what Jesus said and why He died and for the last 8 years I have been doing just that.
For whatever reason the church seems hung up on the Old Testament. They seem to have forgotten that when Jesus hung on the cross that something amazing and wonderful happened. The covenant between Abraham and God was broken, that the gulf created by original sin was now bridged and that a new covenant was created between Jesus and man, that we were no longer under the law, but saved by Grace. That our sins were washed away by the innocent blood of Christ. Now, under this new covenant Jesus had given His disciples 4 commandments. If we live by these and abide by them, then we are ensured a place in Heaven. Now, I tell you that the 10 commandments of the Old Testament are good to live by and they ensure you to be a good person, but they will not get you into Heaven, that boat sailed and has passed. Under the new covenant, is based on LOVE, the message of Christ is of LOVE, UNITY AND ACCEPTANCE. The commandments that are given are: Do unto others as you would have done unto you, love thy neighbor as thy self. All one commandment...second commandment is Children obey your parents so that your days will be many, third is I am the way the truth and the light and no one comes to the father except through me. I am the alpha and the omega the beginning and the end. Fourth is to go out and be fishers of men, meaning witness, testify, live your life as an example and be like Jesus.
It is important to understand these, because the message that the church is still sending out today is one of intolerance, bigotry and hatred. They condemn anyone who thinks or acts differently then they do. Jesus live a live of love, tolerance and acceptance, bringing unity to everywhere he went. He didn't hang out with the religious leaders, he ministered, preached and helped the common man, poor man, the outcast, the thief, prostitutes, etc. He treated everyone equally with love and respect and he expects nothing less of us today.
Even though I have been told time and again that I am not going to make it, that I am going to die and that having 6 terminal illnesses should be devastating for me. I keep replying and telling them, it isn't my time yet, I have work yet to do, and though you may think that I am going to die, the truth is that we are all dying at different rates each day. That I was planning on out living them all. See I know that since I have dedicated my life to helping others and giving of myself that God is going to continue to keep me and reward me, that is all that matters. So won't you join me on this journey, won't you turn over your life to helping others, give of yourself and spread the word of Love, Unity and Acceptance?
Think about it would you? If you honestly believe in God and trust that Jesus died for our sins, you will come to realize that the message is clear and plain for anyone to see. All you have to do is follow. He has been waiting right here for 2000 years few have found the message and the path. He said it was the road less traveled and that few would find the path and the gate.
As always my hopes and dreams are with you,