When Greg first told me of the possibility he had AIDS, it was 1986 and I had very little knowledge of this disease. In fact, I was probably in denial that this was even a possibility. So when we received the news from his partner that he was in the hospital with pneumocystis pneumonia and the possibility of no survival, I was in shock, and we were on a plane to Atlanta within a few hours. Staying at his bedside as he was suffering was a trial by fire – so helpless to do anything but pray. My prayers were rote prayers, the rosary. I asked if I could call a priest and Greg said, “No Mom, you pray for me,” barely able to have enough oxygen even to reply.
A few days later, I was at Mass at the cathedral when Greg was resuscitated and intubated after being deprived of oxygen. By the time I returned to the hospital, he was in a coma. I can still remember saying to my husband, “I now understand why sometimes people die after the death of a loved one, for my psychic pain is so severe, I do not know if I can survive.”
That afternoon I did call the cathedral and asked for a priest to come and anoint my son, and the same young priest who had said Mass earlier arrived to anoint him and pray the rosary with family members. The priest lent me a CD player so that I could play some of Greg’s favorite arias and hymns – which was an easier way for me to pray by his bedside. He said Greg was probably afraid of rejection and that was why he said not to call a priest, as he had listed himself as Catholic upon admission.
After five days, I had to confront his primary doctor about removing him from life support, as Greg had told the doctor to keep him alive by any means. His teen stepsister begged me not to remove the respirator because a spiritual friend had advised her that he would recover. I really did not need this young girl’s emotional upheaval during that time. It was enough dealing with my own emotions. When I suggested that the machine was what was keeping him alive, the doctor finally agreed to do an EEG and the results showed no hope of survival. They removed him from life support, and he died peacefully within a few hours.
No amount of support from family or friends was sufficient to help me heal from this trauma. I attended daily Mass and ranted and raved at God for taking my child. I recalled my Dad saying that God only lends us our children before he brings them home again. It took a year of counseling, lots of prayer and reaching out to help other AIDS patients and their families before I came to accept this loss and achieve healing.
My grief was compounded when then Cardinal Ratzinger stated that homosexuality was an intrinsic disorder. I found that such a destructive statement. My son was a very precious gift, created by God, in His image and likeness. My wise pastor said that the only difference between himself and Greg is that Greg died before the pastor did. Greg would have turned 63 the week I write this, 31 of them spent in Heaven, for I was assured by my pastor that God loves him at least as much as I do.