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Montrose Voice, No. 162, December 2, 1983
File 017
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Montrose Voice, No. 162, December 2, 1983 - File 017. 1983-12-02. University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. January 22, 2021. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/5357/show/5348.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(1983-12-02). Montrose Voice, No. 162, December 2, 1983 - File 017. Montrose Voice. University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/5357/show/5348

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Montrose Voice, No. 162, December 2, 1983 - File 017, 1983-12-02, Montrose Voice, University of Houston Libraries, accessed January 22, 2021, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/5357/show/5348.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Montrose Voice, No. 162, December 2, 1983
Contributor
  • McClurg, Henry
Publisher Community Publishing Company
Date December 2, 1983
Language English
Subject
  • LGBTQ community
  • LGBTQ people
  • Gay liberation movement
Place
  • Houston, Texas
Genre
  • newspapers
Type
  • Text
Identifier OCLC: 22329406
Collection
  • University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
  • LGBT Research Collection
  • Montrose Voice
Rights In Copyright
Note This item was digitized from materials loaned by the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum (GCAM).
Item Description
Title File 017
Transcript 16 Montrose Voice / Dec. 2,1983 AIDS and Grief: A Personal Experience Feature By Michael Helquist Reprinted from "Coming Up," San Francisco "Michael, I think we need a miracle this time." "Mark, what if we got it? What if you were out of the hospital and cured of AIDS? We could go traveling. You know where we would go?" "Where?" "First, I'd take you to the Greek islands because I've always wanted to go there. Then you could take me to your favorite beach in Hawaii." A little later. "You know, Michael, you can still go to those places. I don't know where I'm going from here. But I just might be there waiting for you." —May 1983 SAN FRANCISCO—It's been five months now. Already Mark Feldman died of AIDS complications on Thursday, June 2.1 have a little time perspective on those six and a half months from November of '82 (the date of his diagnosis) to June of '83. It seems like yesterday; it seems like never. In six months' time, I came to care deeply for Mark as a friend, a boyfriend and a lover. And now he's gone. Mark chose to play a very important role in making public the personal side of an AIDS diagnosis. He helped others see beyond the medical reports and statistics. There are, of course, more than AIDS diagnosis hitting the gay male population. Some men also face death and dying. Even greater numbers of gay men and lesbians confront troubling sensations of loss and tremendous feelings of grief. My experiences with Mark were personal and unique. They do not necessarily apply to others. I do think that it's important to acknowledge the considerable pain and grief in the community now. I believe it's important to be sensitive and supportive of these feelings. Sensations of shock combined with my fear of grief to block much of the inevitable grieving process. Early in August of this year, two months after Mark's death, things began to get out of my control. I was asked to address a new group of Shanti Project counselors about the grieving process. The day was difficult for me. I had successfully held back much of the pain of loss for weeks, but the pressure for release was building. After I spoke to the group, there was an exercise, a sort of guided meditation, that Shanti employs called "letting go of grief." Even the title scared me. I didn't know if I could handle the pain; it seemed like too much. I also feared that if I let go of the grief, I would be letting go of Mark. I went ahead with the exercise: it allowed me to release just a little bit of the pressure I felt. And I was okay afterwards. Soon after the Shanti training, I experienced a great deal of pain following a medical procedure. It was the most intense physical pain I had ever endured. These physical problems coincided with my growing sense of emotional pain and loss for Mark. I was unable to hold in the feelings any longer. With my grief for Mark, there also occurred the withdrawal of a new friend's valued comfort and companionship. The thought of the second loss triggered the immensity of the first. My physical resources were at their lowest ebb. The pain killers I was taking after my operation altered my perspective, and I got very depressed. I was in a sorry state. On one of these difficult nights, I had trouble sleeping. The pain kept me awake. I got up to take another pain killer. I returned to my bed, feeling lonely and sad and hurt. I pulled up the blankets, rolled to one side and thought of Mark. I imagined him lying there in bed next to me. I snuggled up closer to him and put my arms around him. I remembered staying overnight at his house several nights during the last months. We would hold each other and feel safe for a few moments. I remembered our through-the-night conversations, in between his violent coughing spells. We would tell sleep-tossed stories, and I'd rub his back. And now, during my difficult night, I felt safe and secure with my thoughts of lying next to him. That evening provided me with a valuable insight. When I called upon the memory of sleeping near Mark, I felt I was calling upon his spirit and energy, on our shared love and support—all those things still available to me. I began to realize that only when I let the grief out and feel it will I begin to get to the other side, that of enjoying my memories of Mark. I started to tell friends that I wanted to let go of Mark's death. His death was tragic and heartrendering; it hurt me more than anything I had ever experienced. But his death was an event that had passed. I wanted to begin to cherish more fully his life. The actual grieving had begun many months ago, even before Mark's death. There had been losses along the way. In May of 1983 after the Candlelight March, Mark and I realized that we would not be attending the Denver AIDS Forum together in June. He would not be well enough. Mark and I didn't have time to take trips together. I enjoyed thestories he and his friends would tell about past travels, but I realized that traveling would not be part of my experience with Mark. We would never visit, as planned, his friend's iris beds or his favorite beach in Hawaii. There was a loss of physical intimacy. Sexual sharing had been curtailed many months earlier. There were times in the hospital when Mark and I were alone together, and Mark would ask me to lie next to him, just for him to be physically close to someone. But there was also the occasion when he suggested that we no longer sleep together in his bed at home. He thought he would be more comfortable with more bed space. I felt a little loss. Most directly I grieved while watching his condition deteriorate. Some with AIDS remain in stable condition; Mark wasn't one of them. He didn't have an easy time with any of his medical tests and treatments. They all seemed to be hard on him. There are what I call my "horror stories" about which I won't write. But the horror occurred when I saw things that made me feel intuitively that Mark wasn't going to be able to get over this disease. Reviewing my journal of last year, I noted that on Christmas Eve after dinner with good friends, I came home feeling overwhelmed with sadness. Earlier that day I had visited Mark before he departed to visit his family in New York. A rash had broken out all over his body. It was a reaction to the medication for Pneumocystis. He seemed so vulnerable and upset. I hadn't seen him so shaken before. My feelings of sadness and incredible anger stayed with me throughout the day. When I returned home late that evening, I sat next to my Christmas tree lit up in the dark and reached for the phone. I called my Shanti counselor and told him, "I don't know what to do with this grief." We talked about it for awhile, and he was both encouraging and supportive. I was relieved that he was available for this and other calls. But I still asked, "Where can I put this grief? If Mark gets worse, there's lots more to come." And that was only the end of 1982. I was with Mark when he died. So were his mother, Ruth; his close friend, Stuart; his Shanti counselor, Stephen; and his doctor, Steve. We knew, but with complete disbelief, that the end was near. Mark was not talking; there was no eye contact. His breathing was extremely labored. I knew I was waiting for his last breath, and I hated that thought. I had promised Mark that I would stay with him throughout his ordeal. I believe he waited until we had all gathered around him. I think Mark had prepared himself and was ready to let go peacefully. But I wasn't ready; I hadn't kept up with him. Stephen suggested that I might want to say good-bye to Mark. The thought was devastating. At first I thought, "No, everything is resolved between us." But then I wanted to—all confusion and rebellion inside—and I stood up, leaned over the bed; and, as I had so often before, kissed him on the forehead, told him I loved him and said good-bye. Soon thereafter, his breathing stopped. Mark had let go. He had fought enough, and his peace was well-deserved. Mark's funeral was held in New York on Sunday, June 5. I had given Mark's mother a framed copy of the only photo I have of Mark and me, taken last March. On the reverse side of the photo I had written to Mark some private thoughts which I realized would never be seen again. The photo, special items from special relatives and friends, were buried with him, as was the crown that a close friend had made for him which Mark wore the night of the Candlelight March. On the day of the funeral, at the same hour, I stayed home alone here in San Francisco, wanting to be aware of Mark in my thoughts and feelings. I lit a candle and played some of his favorite music. I re-read part of a fairy tale that I had read to him a few days earlier in the middle of a sleepless night. I cried for him, and I cried for me, his family and his friends. I remembered the special moments Mark and I had together. Finally, I was still and calm with just the flickering candle and the music, and I felt some peace. The ordeal of Mark's fight was over. I imagined his being laid to rest, literally. By the time of Mark's San Francisco memorial service three days later, I felt that I had already had my service for Mark. This one was for the public, for the larger family of Mark's friends. Congregation Sha'ar Zahav organized and offered a moving and heeling service. I felt a desire and a need then to be public myself. As I had come to be associated with Mark, I wanted people to realize that, of course, we collectively move along. There is continuity. I sensed the useful role of widow/widower as a link between the past and the present and as a step from the present to the future. With the funeral and memorial service completed, and later with the closing of Mark's estate, there occurred the more or less official ending to the public grieving. For many, of course, it was just the mid-point for much private grieving. Many of us have so little experience with grieving and with the realities of death. We're often separated by lack of understanding from our families. Those of us who are younger have often allowed ourselves to be cut off from older gays and lesbians who could perhaps share their insight into these life experiences. We don't seem to have any sub-cultural, meaning gay, traditions for our grieving. This was certainly true before anyone heard of AIDS. Death has not been a stranger to our gay population, but to many it seems death has never been so pervasive. It is this pervasive quality that makes AIDS grief different. Who will we mourn next? And there are so many of us in our 20's and 30's who now mourn the loss of friends, brothers and lovers—many also of the same age. One of my moresurprising feelings soon after Mark's death was a flash of fury
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