Sunday, September 4, 2011

We get up

Excerpt from Shelley’s Diary
November 28, 1998
For some of us it takes almost a lifetime to grasp how precious life really is.  It’s been twenty years now since we were twenty-five, since our lives turned the final corner from childhood to adulthood.   And on that corner, we came face to face with the cold hard reality that the best of intentions and well-laid plans do not always produce the ending we would have chosen.  Nevertheless, life is still good.  I am thinking about this today, because today I went to visit Bob at Holy Cross for the first time. 
dacoach89, flickr
Bob would have said that with faith, and hope, and love, we can find a much better ending than the sappy-happy, superficial ending we would have thought of for ourselves anyway, because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,[1] greater things that are beyond our understanding.   And love breathes life into that unseen substance.   Bob lived that, every day of his life, especially in the latter days.  Bob knew what love was.  Love doesn’t play recklessly with the precious miracle of life.  Love ministers and suffers and serves with a true and compassionate heart, a steward’s heart, the heart of Jesus. 
My Bob, my soul mate, has been gone a month now.  Sometime in ’82 he got the same flu Bob Rizzo had, but not before our precious boy Robbie had been born, our baby who turned eighteen just this week.  I have only God to thank that Robbie was born HIV negative, and I too remain so. 
After the flu set in, Bob embarked upon a long and winding road deep into the Way of greater things beyond our understanding (did I ever mention that The Long and Winding Road had been our song?).  He became part of every field trial for every drug imaginable, and gave the villainous HIV a good run for its money, sometimes much to his body’s consternation.
Eric Luse
But in ’94 they found a spot on his liver, and the war began in earnest, a war that would pull him deep into the wards of San Francisco General, waiting by the bedsides of the dying; manning the desk in the free clinic; being an anchor in AIDS support groups; bringing his humor, his hope, and his love to people who thought they had none.  His hands became a blessing, just like Barb had told him they would be.  His Dad would have been proud.
But the last person I expected to see today was Bruno, off in the distance beyond a quarter mile of headstones, visiting our good friend George Moscone, the grave still heaped with flowers and gifts from those who came to pay their respects on the twentieth anniversary of his death yesterday. 
When I saw him, I stood quietly and stared, knowing that eventually he would feel my presence and turn to look at me.  Sure enough, he finally turned, and we walked toward each other slowly among the rows, finally standing face to face.  We hugged, and then just held each other. He told me how he had married Janet about 15 years before, no kids, and how he hadn’t bought that house at the bottom of my parents’ street to scare me.  He had bought it because he had already picked it out anyway, for us to live in, for when he and I got married, so I could make a closer relationship with my parents.  He was going to ask me to marry him the day I had walked out on him, but I hadn’t given him the chance.  And he told me that he had never really shot anyone with the gun, but he surely would have, if I hadn’t reacted like I did that day. 

I told him how Bob and I had given birth to the most beautiful child ever to be born, a boy whose eyes undulated with all the colors of the earth and sky as his mood demanded.  And I told him how I had, in the end, found someone to spend my life with after all, seemingly quite by accident, who was not the yin to my yang, the fire to my ice, like my Bob had been.  Instead, he had warm, mysterious, soul divining Daisy eyes, just like mine, patient eyes that I could fall into and rest in, eyes that would stand in the gap to help Bob and Russ and I parent our child. And while we appeared to be polar opposites, we were in fact quite the same, driven leaping flames of perfectionism each in our own way, and this made our union the ride of the century.  A perfectly fine ending even though I wouldn’t have thought it up by myself, now that I finally knew Who I needed to have along on the ride with me, now that I knew how to hear His Voice among the others, and how to forgive myself.
Graham married once, briefly, and never again, and remained a master of computer science and a corporate lifer, while maintaining his status as rebel art aficionado. 
Jacki was haunted for years by government commissions and agencies, questioned until she had no more answers to give, and then disappeared into the mist to start life afresh, at first small and wounded and confused, and then rising up new and strong, serving the mentally ill and the homeless somewhere out there in parts unknown with a steward’s heart, while raising a remarkable daughter.  She was a poet now, and stayed close to the true branch of the very same Christian church that Jim Jones had perverted in his Temple. 
And Barb and Yonas?  After a stint in the Peace Corps, and three children later, they went to Ethiopia on a government project, putting their legal and engineering talents together to assure that communities have ample supplies of wholesome, clean water.
Pleased with how we found ourselves and our friends reflected in each other’s eyes, after all these many years, Bruno and I held each other again, there between the headstones, one last time. Then we stood back and took a good long look before we went our separate ways.  One last time, his ice blue eyes warmed up just for me, and he mussed up my hair, saying, “Take care of yourself, bella mia.  Un milione di baci.”  And as he walked away, I could have sworn I heard him say, “Meep meep.”       
*  *  *
This book would not have been possible without the love, support, and discerning eye of my husband Bob, who faithfully read every word I wrote, even when it was produced at 2:00 am.
For my children, Jenna and Steven, and for Scooter, and their friends, I have nothing but gratitude for their patience with my wild stories, the hours I spent with my face in the computer screen instead of with them, and my laughing jags.
To my friend and mentor Judy LaSalle, a formidable writer, thank you for being a mirror to hold my work up to, day after day after day, and pushing me along when I couldn’t push myself.
To those whose lives are reflected in this book, my endless love.
I give special acknowledgement and undying respect to Dr. Fielding McGehee and Dr. Rebecca Moore at San Diego State University’s Jonestown Institute, whose massive, lovingly assembled collection of research and primary source documents is a miracle unto itself, and without which this book would not have been possible.  Additional thanks to Michael Bellefountaine.
And special thanks to Tehetena Girma, aka Queen of Sheba or MiMi G, of the Lion of Judah Society for helping to acquire translations of Mezmur 23 and the Lord’s Prayer from the original King of Kings Amharic, and for being excited about the possibilities of this book.  Buruk Fiqir.

[1] Hebrews 11:1, NIV Bible, Zondervan

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