Art of Dying Volume One | Page 29


We ’ re here to learn .

“ I made peace with dying last year . I paid for my funeral in advance , bought my headstone . I ’ ve done all that stuff so that when I die no one has to do anything . And I ’ m ok . That ’ s the one thing I won ’ t do is look back on my life with regret . There was no book with instructions on how to do this . So you learn as you go along and you stumble and you fall . And I ’ ve stumbled a lot in my life . I don ’ t know of anybody that hasn ’ t .
When I left Tennessee I felt suffocated . I was ashamed of being gay . I felt less than everyone else . Wanted to get as far away from Tennessee as I could . I did - I fell in love with California almost immediately . I remember thinking how free I felt . I felt like the whole world was mine for taking at that moment . The drinking took off soon after that . What started off as casual progressed into daily drinking : drinking at home , drinking at work , drinking at bars . And I went out and got drunk with some friends , went back home with this guy and we ’ re having sex and the condom breaks and we were so drunk that we don ’ t care . And I know in my heart that ’ s when I seroconverted because it was immediately after that that I got the flu .
You know when you are young you make these wild choices , which is I guess what youth is about , that you can make these mistakes and learn from them . It ’ s so funny because those things that I was reaching for in my twenties , I got hold of and they are never what you think they are . I was always looking for the next best thing . Now , it ’ s not what I would do . We are here to learn something . I ’ m learning it as a gay man , whatever my life lesson is and being HIV is part of that life lesson . If I die today or if I die next week , I ’ m at peace with living and I ’ m at peace with dying . I am a culmination of all the things I ’ ve done up to this point .”
Randy was the first person I interviewed for this project . I met him on Tuesday mornings in his room at Maitri Compassionate Care in Duboce Park , San Francisco . We would sit and talk for about an hour , or until he felt too short of breath due to his lung cancer . The N train would periodically clack down the road outside and there were several pairs of cowboy boots stacked neatly along the wall from Randy ’ s rodeo days . As a gay man , Randy never felt at home in Tennessee and spent his whole life moving through America ’ s major liberal cities . Plagued by a nihilism that was pacified by drugs , alcohol and sex , Randy eventually turned to God to find his solace . He told me that it was only through this loving God that he found the strength to forgive himself and accept his life . Randy died on September 27 , 2014 .