directed at Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
Although she had her moment of panic
during the assassination of the late president, she generally is remembered as the
strong, silent widow standing tall with a
humble dignity. That wasn't the kind of
mourning I had in mind. I wanted to go out
into the dark evening and rage against the
sky and stars at whatever or whoever had
allowed this tragedy to descend.
I've been trying to find my own way
through this. I talk with my men and
women friends, my Shanti counselor, my
therapist. Weeks after Mark's death, I
would walk through my days, functioning
on a minimal level. I felt confused, alone
and very disoriented. I wondered, "Is this
part of the grief?" I would recognize grief
in my crying, but wonder about the meaning of so much confusion and insecurity in
I thought of Mark every day; I missed
him every day. Somehow every Thursday
near 4:00 p.m. (the day and time of his
death), I would be especially reminded of
him. On a few Thursday afternoons, I
would even be driving Mark's car past
Franklin Hospital where he died.
Mark had been very skillful last winter
and spring in bringing the focus of the
media to AIDS. He gave endless interviews to newspapers and to radio and TV
stations. His photo was featured in Newsweek and the German magazine, Der Spiegel. After his death, the legacy of Mark's
activism left me and many others in a curious conflicted position. It was impossible
throughout the months of June and July
to pick up a gay newspaper or newsletter
without seeing a photo of Mark or reading
a reference to him. Local AIDS TV specials
featured clips of Mark's speaking from his
hospital bed or speaking from the stage
the night of the Candlelight March. I want
Mark and his courage and example to others to be remembered. At the time, however, I felt intruded upon by these photos,
articles and feature programs. I had no
control over how or when the issues of
Mark's absence and my grief would be
thrown at me.
With the lack of any community guidelines, I confronted a variety of responses
from individuals. Some would know just
what to do, and a quick hug would replace
any initial awkward words. Others would
avoid me, as they later explained, because
they didn't know what to say. Some would
become noticeably uncomfortable if I mentioned Mark in casual conversation or if
sometimes I spoke of him in the present
As the weeks passed, I began to get more
messages. Now a few acquaintances
would suggest that it really was time for
me "to get on with it." I was told, "Life
must go on. Get out and have some fun.
Meet someone new." Ironically, others
would wonder aloud how I could possibly
think of feeling affectionate or loving to
another man so soon. What I wanted most
at the time was for someone to understand
that I was confused, that I needed some
comfort, and that I wanted to talk-
frequently about Mark. During Mark's
last six months of being in and out of hospitals, on and off treatment programs,
there usually wasn't the time for any of us
to really discuss what was happening. Too
much happened too fast. There was no
My experiences of witnessing death and
confronting grief convinces me that there
is often a lack of awareness and sensitity,
but mostly a lack of understanding,
among our gay population of what is
unfortunately going on here. That we
have immense good will and that we have
responded to the AIDS crisis with courage,
devotion and determination I don't question for a moment. I just find that once
again, we have another need pulling at our
What can I say to those of you who fear
that you will soon share my experience of
losing a loved one to AIDS? Or to those of
you who have already lost someone? What
can we say to each other? There may not
be much need for words: the most intense
feelings are shared and understood. Opening ourselves to love takes on a special
meaning, to others this may sound like an
I will simply say what I have learned tp
this point, five months later. My grief and
the intensity of it are very important to
me; it is a reflection of my deep feelings for
Mark. My grief is my own experience. I
won't follow anyone else's patterns or
expectations. Only I will know how long
my grieving should continue. I may, however, seek out the observations of others to
achieve some perspective. I will seek comfort where I'm able and when I choose. I
still have both the need and the capability
to give and receive love, to be affectionate
and intimate, to be sexual.
1 remember Mark's telling me,
"Michael, this disease is mine. You can't
experience it the way I do." Now I think
this grieving is mine. I want and need to
share some of it with others; but it is my
own experience to feel and from which to
learn. I feel that I've reached a stage, a
phase in the process of grieving, of opening myself to the experience of death and
to the immensity of life. AIDS and the
losses associated with it have been too
DEC. 2, 1983 / MONTROSE VOICE
intense for me to handle with my formerly
adequate Belf-sufficiency. I have painfully
experienced many personal limitations,
and I'm now looking in new directions. My
life feels changed, and yet I'm just standing on the edge of the changes. It looks
pretty frightening out there. I've never felt
a greater challenge ahead of me or one
with greater opportunities.
I'm very thankful that I'm not alone in
this process. I have good men and women
friends who understand, and we care
deeply for each other. And I have an ally,
my Mark, my Jewish American Prince,
wearing his crown and nudging me forward. If Mark is on those Greek and
Hawaiian islands someday when I travel
there, I want to be ready to open my heart
to him with joy and more love.
L'Chaim. To Life.
ATTORNEY AT LAW
DWI DEBT RELIEF
Reasonable Fees & Terms
Sat. & Evening Appts.
303 W. Polk at Tatt
Helquist is a California journalist living
in the San Francisco Bay area. Reprinted
from "Coming Up." September, 1983.
1C 1983. All rights reserved.
Texas Trial Lawyers Association
Licensed by the Texas Supreme Courl
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