The John Doe block of the AIDS Memorial Quilt always brings tears to my eyes when I see it for a few reasons. First, I find it so incredibly sad that ANY humanbeing would be left to die in isolation from family and friends. I do not care what anyone has done or said in life, NO ONE deserves to die alone or unknown!!
People often roll their eyes at me when I tell them the best job I have held in life was working in the Federal Bureau of Prisons Hospice Unit in Butner, NC. Yes, the men that I cared for were convicted of federal crimes – some of the crimes were indeed heinous offenses. HOWEVER, that criminal was a living breathing human being preparing to leave life in the isolation of a prison cell.
My job was to go sit with the individual when it was determined by the attending physician or PA thate he had 48 hours or less until “expiration” – I hate that term still!! Many times when I was called to sit, the person was fully aware of everything when I got to his cell. We would talk, make calls to his family and friends, play cards, some I read to, most I cried with as the reality of their situation took hold of them – 48 hours is not very long at all!
Every man I sat with during my time with hospice, all 127 of them thanked me for not leaving them alone – to each of them I said ‘thank you for allowing me the privilege of coming with you on your journey. Now go knowing this is really your beginning, not the end!”
SERIOUSLY best job ever!
I said ALL that because the first person I knew that died from AIDS was Marc Beauter. I was told that he was in the hospital due to becoming dehydrated as a result of the flu. I did not question it. A week later Marc’s sis or mom called and asked if I would like to go see Marc before it was too late. Too late for what I wondered – until I got to the hospital. I was made to put on gown, shoe covers, take my glasses and watch off and leave with the nurse, and 101 precautionary things – definitely NOT the flu! !
Marc looked so frail and tired. He smiled at me and mumbled something. I was shocked and terrified! My friend was NOT this shell of a man laying here! The nurse stuck her fully masked face in the door and said I had three minutes left.
I looked at my friend and he pulled me to get me to come down close to him. . .
He said, “JT, thank you, you are the only person who has not been too scared to come see me other than my mom. Thank you my friend. I will be gone soon we both know that. JT promise me that you will not let any of our friends die alone. Promise me me Jay, please promise me that one thing, no one deserves to die alone because of a disease not even this disease!”
Through tears and snot I promised my friend that I would be there to hold the hand of any of our friends who may be facing death like this. I promised Marc that our friends would not die alone.
Marc’s death changed my world!!
For information about the AIDS Memorial Quilt