It was the mother of one of our newly diagnosed 40-something year old patients. I had met the son and his parents a week earlier during a new patient orientation interview.
The couple sat down and thanked me for meeting with them. “I need to learn more about HIV,” she said. “I don’t want my son to die,” she said as she reached for the kleenex box. “Jim” quickly added, “And I’m struggling with accepting that my son is a homosexual or gay or whatever you call it! Is this something I did to him? I feel like such a failure!” His 6’4″ body sobbed.
I was actually encouraged with our start.
1. They showed up.
2. She was afraid and wanted to know how to help.
3. He was confused, angry, and guilty, but wanted to understand.
4. Most of all, both expressed love for their son.
They are active in a large church in Birmingham and faith is central in their lives. She wanted to know if prayer would help her son’s health. I assured her it would help him and her.
The Dad wanted to know how his son could be “doing this to him.” He felt shame, though he said over and over he still loved him. I encouraged him that “this” wasn’t something his son had chosen, or that he had inflicted on his son, or that his son was doing to him. He relaxed a little, but not much.
It is not the first time I have talked with parents about learning about “both issues” at the same time in what I call “double disclosure.” They were not in agreement about which disclosure to grieve the most.
“What can we do?” they seemed to sincerely want to know.
“Love your son unconditionally. You don’t have to know all the answers or even all of the questions to ask. Just love him. It’s the greatest gift you can give him. The rest of it can be worked out.” They nodded.
I answered as many questions as they asked over the next hour. They asked me to pray with them and I did.
Love is the rock that gives us the footing to deal with anything in life.
Unfortunately, not all parents are able to see the bottom line. Thank God these two did.