by Michael P. Rodriguez
To my dearest friend,
My father once told me that death is the measurement of a man. For weeks I tried to figure out his riddle. My tiny mind, at that young age, could not comprehend or even imagine what he meant. I soon forgot it. I was reminded of it when I saw my grandfather as he lay in his coffin. I cannot forget the eerie calm that resonated from his face. Behind those dead eyes there was peace. I had asked my father how could peace come from his face when he had left his family and friends and would never see them again. I remember him pausing and looking at me side ways and saying ‘You never got the lesson did you?’ he pulled me close and said, ‘the measurement of a man is death.’ When in those last few moments or even seconds he know he’s about to die, if that man can look over his life and see that he has achieved those things which are important, truly important, he will find peace in death. "What are those things?" I simply asked. He answered, "many people believe it is money or education, but it's not." Family, does he have one? Has he provided for his family properly? Has he cared for them and loved them the best he could? Has he raised his children so that they know he loves them? These are the things that truly matter. If he can raise his head in death and say yes I have lived my life to the fullest and done so like a proud and dignified man should, then he will find peace.
I then watched this wonderful kind man, this giant filled with love for me, cry, and I was proud to cry with him. This was a cry of healing. That cry washed over me a spirit of love and reassurance from my father to me.
It is with this in mind that I write this letter. Father, my dearest friend, I am writing you to tell you that I have the HIV virus. I am sorry to do this in such a cowardly way, but I cannot bear to look upon your strong face and see the pain it will show. I am not a homosexual. I have always loved women the way you raised me to, but I must confess I have loved them irresponsibly and at times without protection. I pray you can forgive me. I want to let you know that it is now possible that one day you may look at me as I lay I my coffin. I want you to know that I will do what I can so that you will be able to see a look of peace on my face, just like grandfather. I will never have a wife neither will I have children, but I will find peace. Peace in the fact that I loved, and I am loved. You see father, I now truly understand why grandfather had that look of peace on his face. He was loved. He loved himself and was loved by his family. This made him a complete man.
Love is more than an emotion. It is something we all seek. We search for it because we cannot live without it. Love is a completing emotion. Emotions like anger and hate, take away from us; they tear us down and break us apart, but love builds us up. love fulfills us because it is a basic need. Grandfather knew and felt he was loved, and because of this he lived in completeness. This is how I plan to live. I hope to find completeness in the love we share for each other. I do not know how many times I have told you before, but I love you dad. I know that because you love me and will be there for me, I can face this cloud that now overshadows me. You are more than my father, you are my dearest friend.
My beloved son,
What can I say? I will begin with I love you. It is honest and open, the way our relationship is and always should be. I am here for you. I always will be. I promise you I will do whatever I can to make you happy. Your news was very difficult to deal with, it still is. When I first read your letter, I rushed to the phone to call you. I wanted to call you a liar. I wanted to curse and yell at you for playing such a wicked joke. As I drew nearer to the phone I froze. I could not call. I became afraid, this could not be true, not my son. I even checked the mailing address to see if it was delivered to the wrong house. I sat next to the phone for hours hoping the letter would vanish or that I would wake up from this nightmare. I thought of the things we have done from little league to loaning you money last month to help you pay an overdue phone bill. My God, twenty-six years of memories and all of them still fresh in my mind.
I swear, no man was happier than I on the day you were born. A son, a beautiful son. I knew on that day a change had to take place, a change in me. You see, I vowed to myself that I would have a better relationship with my son than my father and I had, although at the time of his death and years preceding his death, our relationship was a strong and candid one. There were things I could never tell my father. Perhaps I always held a fear of losing his love or trust if I admitted my mistakes to him.
In life we hide many secrets. Not only from our loved ones, but from ourselves. These secrets eat at us, chip away at our security. If we refuse to face them, they find their way to our soul. Many of the secrets I kept from my father would have been mere annoyances to him. I want to praise you son, for guarding your soul and keeping it free of secrets.
How God has blessed me! My son can come to me and share his most painful ordeal. Thank you son. Thank you for loving me and trusting me. This is why I feel proud about our relationship. You came to me with the courage to tell me what you are facing; what we are facing, it has been sometime since I picked up the phone and called you. Our conversations have been long and at times tearful. I know they are only strengthening us, building us up and preparing to rise up the next level. They are enabling us to face whatever future lies in wait for us. Doctors can give us advice and counselors can comfort…and son I can only love. But I will love with all my heart and all my soul just as I always have. In this love that we will give, we both will find peace. Peace within ourselves and with each other in the knowledge that we are family. No one will ever say we did not love completely, this includes ourselves, I love you son.