HIV image by Miguel Á. Padriñán

Love Letter: A Final Goodbye in the Ward of the Leper

In Blog, Love Letters by Zo

Dearest Lover

Our life together was a wild ride. We never gave up. We fought, laughed, lived, loved, and forgave with passion until one of us did…. give up. That was you, my love.

A simple boat ride, thousands of questions, and we were in love. We imprinted on each other’s minds in ways that would take us years to understand. It was electric and complete. I thought I was mistaken, that I was misreading signals. Until one day, you kissed me. So, I kissed you back.

El Nido the day we met
El Nido the day we met
From that moment, we were inseparable

It was physically painful to be apart whenever we had to be, it was difficult to understand. It was like a piece missing, a gaping hole, being incomplete.

For the first time ever, with you, I felt safe. I felt seen and heard, there was finally space for me to be me. Without words, with the smallest of motions, you would support me before I knew I needed it.

You saved my life when I was too ill to move or care
Quezon the town where we first lived together
Quezon, the town where we first lived together

and you stayed by my side when I struggled to walk. Without access to physio, we created ways to help me get stronger every day. You led me towards healing. Gently encouraging, holding me up when I would almost fall.

You were such a brave woman

People whispered, they talked, they pointed and criticised a love they couldn’t understand. Even your family stood away from me as far as they could while still having their hands out for their entitlement, or so they thought.

I couldn’t understand their words, though their faces and energies were clear. You bore the brunt of their hatred, including those closest to you, and you chose to love me anyway.

So here we are at the end of our story, in a leper ward

It’s a shipping container. Windows without covering letting everything in. Broken furniture. A hospital bed for you, a slat of wood for me. A chair and plastic drawers with degrading files crammed inside them.

In the construction zone, in the car park of the hospital. Support accessed via text, no staff appointed in this place of no hope. Just frequent visits from rats, feral cats, and toads.

Queer Fabulous by Rodnae Productions
Queer Fabulous by Rodnae Productions
Yet, it was the most loving place on earth

Your adult children abandoned us. They said my punishment for our queer relationship was to nurse you 24/7, alone. Their hatred was no longer hidden. It was my penance for loving you. It was somehow my fault you were sick.

What they didn’t understand is that love,

a relationship, is fluid roles swap and evolve

with the growth of a partnership. Love grows, deepens, and I would have done anything to help you live or at least lessen your suffering.

Loving during the honeymoon is easy. Loving during hurt and betrayal is the test.

Loving you was never a mistake

and nurturing, tending to you when you were most vulnerable was a privilege. My heart broke at the farm. You said your biggest fear was it would get too much for me. I wouldn’t come home one day, and you would be left to die alone.

How could I abandon you?

You loved me at my worst, weakest, and most vulnerable. The least I could do was the same for you, except you didn’t get out alive.

AIDS by Klaus Nielsen
AIDS by Klaus Nielsen
I knew somehow you were going to die

AIDs is the last bastion of HIV a no turnback point in a developing world, and you started the ARVs too late. When we arrived at the hospital, you were weak. Waiting for the referral, an administrative mistake robbed you of the last of your energy. You couldn’t sit up, could barely walk, and a smile was rare.

You still found the energy to say I love you as we held hands in despair at the inevitable

The light left your eyes when you saw the truth. Your kids weren’t by your side. They were ashamed and greedy. And absent. The journey back was too far and too difficult to grasp.

I knew I saw it happen. I was angry. You had to fight. We would do it together.

Holding hands by Cottonbro
Holding hands by Cottonbro
But you gave up because of me too

To free me from the stress, worry, and difficulty that would have been. You already saw the toll it had taken on me, so you chose to leave for both of us.

From then,

it was about helping you to die with dignity

surrounded by love as you transitioned out of your body wracked with disease.

It wasn’t long. We were alone. They had left to plan your funeral. I turned down the lights and held your hand, gently talking into your ear.

Then you breathed out one last time

Goodbye, my love, thanks for the journey.

All my love,

zo