Yesterday I attended a Celebration of Life for a wonderful family friend named Lisa. She was a beautiful, intelligent, funny and loving individual…the kind of person who could light up the room with her smile. She passed away after a brave fight against brain cancer at the age of 33.
Rather than a funeral, she had requested a Celebration of Life. I had never heard of a Celebration of Life, so I was unsure of what to expect. To my surprise, it was perfect! The event was held at a beautiful country club. The beginning was traditional with hymns, a priest speaking, a friend who gave a heartfelt eulogy and bagpipes (those bagpipes get to me every time). Then the party began...there was a live band playing Lisa's favorite songs, plenty of food, delicious cake, and an open bar.
As I looked around the event, I couldn't help but notice many of the people 'looked' sick. Some had wires and medical devices attached. But they were there…celebrating Lisa just as I was…dancing, laughing, crying. I later learned many of the people were from Lisa's cancer support group. I couldn't help but think that I have HIV, but to look at me…no one would ever know. Yet here are these individuals who are fighting a difficult battle, just as I am, yet they can't hide it from the outside world. I almost felt guilty. I am sick, but I can hide my sickness from the world.
Lisa's Celebration of Life had me thinking of when I will pass. I can't help but think I will pass before many of my friends and family. I want a Celebration of Life with a traditional sappy beginning followed by a joyous party! I want the band to play Jimmy Buffett covers (I'm a huge Jimmy Buffett fan). I want leis passed out to the all those in attendance and I want my friends and family to smile with memories and remember that while I had HIV, it was simply a part of me...it did not define me.