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Rest in Peace, Wendie Jo Sperber

World HIV/AIDs Day, December 1

Throughout the world, over 40 million people are living with one of the most deadly diseases --- HIV and AIDS. It is likely that you know someone who has contracted the virus or who has already died from it. Because of the stigma of AIDS, one of my cousins, passed away several years ago in loneliness and isolation from our family. Without giving us an opportunity to say a loving good-bye to him, his mother selfishly had him buried far away from us. No one else, not even his father, knew what happened to him. It is a pain that I still carry and anger that I have yet to overcome with her. Not only did my cousin die a horrible death, he was also ashamed to disclose his homosexuality to the family. While I cannot fully understand how he must have felt, it was just another stupid attempt to conceal the obvious. I so want to say to him, "Hello cousin, tell us something we don’t already know." I would have hugged him and told him that we love all of him even if we don’t agree with his lifestyle. I just can’t imagine the pain and loneliness he must have endured. It was all so unnecessary. I know that my cousin probably wanted to save himself from the attempts to “straighten” him out. You know, he was definitely right about that. His choice would have wrought the same lectures heaped upon the “wayward” relatives whose chose to “live in sin” without the benefit of marriage. I love my family but some of their actions are as predictable as sunrise. All things considered, my cousin forgot how our family always has each other’s back. He forgot that we don’t always agree but we’re always family. What is more ironic is that he could have learned that he was not alone; there are other members of the family that are homosexual. What a sad end to a promising life. Don’t let HIV/AIDS break up your family and remember that no ever has to be alone. I love you, cousin. © 2005 VANESSA BYERS

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