Celebration of Life

katie06's picture

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.

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Ivayne Payten's picture

Thank you so much for your moving article Katie. I too have HIV and I had never heard of a 'Celebration of Life' either, until one of my friends (who also pointed me to this article) on the website PositiveSingles talked about your article and that she too has made arrangements to have a CoL.

I have felt, like, you, that know one realizes that I have a disease that only a few years ago had such a terrible stigma attached to it, that you'd think we'd grown an extra head. Thank goodness HIV is now a chronic disease that we can live with, passengering it through our lives.

Thanks again for the article x

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