When I met Farmer, I was in the Army at the time. I was stationed at Fort Bragg and assigned to Womack Army Hospital. It was so long ago that it's hard to remember exactly when, but I'll never forget him and the short time that I knew him. How could I? I was his only friend.
One night while I was on CQ duty in the barracks, Farmer came to me. He thought he had passed out but he wasn't sure. He asked if I would walk him over to the hospital because he wasn't feeling too well and thought maybe he should get checked out at the ER. He had trouble lifting his arms so I helped him put his jacket on. We talked as we made our way. He told me he hadn't been taking his medicine like he should. He didn't like the affect it had on him. When he took it, all he wanted to do was sleep. He questioned what kind of life that was, what kind of quality life entailed if the medicine you were taking to extend your life made you sleep it away.
There was a parking lot between the barracks and the hospital. So we had to walk single file in order to navigate amongst the cars. It was a cold and windy night. Farmer was a small man. At 5' 10'', I towered over him by at least a head. A strong gust of wind came up and Farmer was pushed back against me - so I thought. I quipped that the wind was strong and might just blow him away. But, as the wind's gust dissipated, Farmer was still leaning back against me and was beginning to slip. I grabbed him under the arms to steady him and that's when I realized something was wrong. I lowered him to the ground. Right there in the parking lot between two parked cars, my friend was having a full blown seizure. Some of the medicine Farmer had just been complaining about was to control his seizures.
In the middle of a parking lot, on a cold, dark, windy night, with a hospital in sight, I screamed at the top of my lungs for help. I couldn't leave him there. I had to try and protect him from the cars surrounding him, the hard pavement, and from himself. But when someone is seizing, there's not a lot that you can do. I felt helpless. Luckily, someone heard my cries. Someone had to have come. I don't really remember. The last image and recollection I have of Farmer is him sitting up on a stretcher in the ER. He was concerned that they would transfer him again, or maybe even discharge him from the Army. What would his father say? He was a colonel somewhere in the Army. You see, Farmer was dieing. A slow and painful death. He had AIDS and I was his only friend.
I feel honored, and humbled, to be able to say that. I can't really say that I did anything to make it happen. I had never had a close friend who was gay. It just sort of happened. Or, maybe it was something that Farmer saw in me that I didn't even realize was there because he's the one who approached me. I remember the conversation when he told me he was gay.
We were walking along somewhere together, maybe to the PX-Annex up the street. That's when he said that he wasn't like Mack, that he was bi-sexual. Mack was a guy that I used to eat lunch with from time to time in the cafeteria before he got transferred somewhere else. Looking back, I guess it was obvious that Mack was gay. He had effeminate qualities about him. Heck, we talked about sewing. But, I really didn't give it much thought. I really didn't care. We were lunch buddies. We didn't talk about his sex life.
I guess Farmer thought I knew about Mack, or maybe because he so desperately needed someone to talk to, to be a friend, he took a chance on me. Whatever the reason, I'm glad he did. Knowing him taught me about compassion, love, understanding, and most of all acceptance. As we walked, Farmer told me about his life. How he had a daughter somewhere but his ex-wife wouldn't let him see her. He had a boyfriend who was a Marine. His father was a colonel, but kept him out of sight. Farmer was an embarrassment to the colonel and possibly even detrimental to his career now that it was out that his son had AIDS. He told me why he had no friends - why no one would talk to him.
A guy who worked in medical records came upon Farmer's records stating his condition and decided to post them on the barracks' bulletin board for all to see. It was the mid-to-late eighties; AIDS was still considered a gay man's disease. Not only did it out him on his sexuality but it made him a pariah because of the disease. Nothing happened to the guy who broke the patient's confidentiality. After all, Farmer was a gay man, with a gay man's disease. It didn't matter that he was a man, a father, a son, a human-being, that he was dieing. He was a pariah. But not to me, he was my friend.
I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed. ~ Dalai Lama, 1989 Nobel Peace-Prize speechvar sc_project=355626; var sc_partition=1;