In the late 1980’s, while I was living in New York City and practicing chiropractic, I was asked to join the Executive Board of an organization that was involved with the AIDS epidemic. Basically, our mission was to encourage more research into possible treatments. (There was little available in traditional medicine at the time besides AZT, a very toxic drug, yet other possible avenues of research, medical and alternative, were often being systematically discouraged.)
As a result of the time I spent with the organization, I met a large number of people who were HIV positive, a large number who had contracted AIDS, and I watched a great many of these new friends (though, I hasten to add, not all) die. It was a heartbreaking time.
I certainly did not treat AIDS with chiropractic, but as an adjunct treatment (and I also employed nutrition, herbs, and some acupressure as part of my practice), or sometimes just because someone coincidentally might hurt their neck or back, I fairly frequently would have a patient in my office who had AIDS. I remember how hard it was, especially early on, to hear that some young friend had just gotten back his or her lab results and had Kaposi’s Sarcoma or PCP, and they were confronting the looming possibility of death. I often had to leave the room on some pretense or other, I found it so hard not to cry or scream.
And one day, one of my patients told me to stop being so sad. He said that AIDS was the best thing that had ever happened to him! I didn’t know what on earth he was talking about, but he explained that once he came to grips with the realization that he was going to die, he stopped wasting all his time being moody, or cynical, or lazy, or mean, and every second became a great joy. He said he felt sorry for me, and all the people like me who act as if they think they’re going to live forever and can waste all the time they want being negative.
So now I try to think differently. I try really hard, and so should you, to remember that we’re going to die, that we could die in the next moment, that the person we’re talking to, or ignoring, or even just thinking about, could die in the next moment – and there will never be another chance to say something kind, or helpful, or friendly, or loving. Of course, it’s really hard! Someone annoys me, someone cuts me off in traffic, or maybe I’m just tired, and I completely forget! But I try to remember what my patient said to me that day (and I found his words confirmed by countless extraordinary people during that time), I try to think in a new and better way about the fragility, beauty, and wonder of my life, and the precious life that’s all around me.
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