Ryan White Voices
Got home and Jay said, “What’s going on?” And I just went in my bedroom and I picked a folder up and I handed it to him. And it says, “What to do when you get tested positive with HIV.” He threw it down and he said, “Where did you find this?” And I said, “I just went and got it, because I tested positive for HIV.” And he just fell down on his knees and started bawling like a baby. And I said, “Jay, why didn’t you tell me? Why did you lie to me?” He said, “I didn’t lie to you. I told you I didn’t have AIDS. I don’t have AIDS, but I am positive.” I said, “But Jay, we didn’t use protection.” I said, “You could have used protection. You didn’t have to infect me.” “Well, I don’t like condoms.”
I said, “So you’re condemning me to a life of HIV and AIDS, taking my life?” I said, “If you wanted to kill me, why didn’t you just take a gun out and shoot me?” Oh, that whole afternoon we sat and cried and talked and cried and talked.
We stayed friends and he would call me up and he would say how sorry he was that he infected me. And I told him, I said, “Well, you know, that’s between you and God.” I said, “I’ve already forgiven you.” Even on his deathbed, when I was laying, I kept saying a prayer that Jesus prayed for the people that was hanging him on the cross and He prayed and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’ve done.” And I just kept repeating that over. “God, forgive him. He didn’t know what he was doing. God, forgive him.” And I don’t know why I kept praying that, but I just kept praying it and praying it and praying it.
I asked my sisters, I have three sisters. I asked them to come to Portland to visit me. Two of them came and the next day I got phone calls. One of the sisters said, “Well, I’m sorry, but you can’t come back in my house anymore.” And the other sister said, “Well, after you leave I have to sterilize my house, so it’d probably be better if you just didn’t come around.” I said, “Okay.”
Sometimes it just gets too weighed down and so I go to church and pray and give it all to God. And it just takes the weight off my shoulders. It’s just unbelievable how light you feel when you walk out, when you turn it all over to God. Sometimes I need a big shoulder to cry on, and I don’t have a big shoulder to cry on. We were in church and this young lady, she said, “God wants you to go up and ask specifically for what you want.” I turned around and I went back up. I told my pastor, I said, “I want God to heal me from AIDS.” And he put his arms around me and put his head on my shoulder and bawled and just bawled. He must have bawled for 5 minutes. In front of the church, he just sat there and bawled. And he started praying for me. Support from my pastor and his wife are just phenomenal. They just embrace me with their love, and that’s how I feel with God. The minute I walk in that church, I usually walk in and I go to singing. “Lord, build a fence all around me every day”
[Other people joining in, singing]: Lord, I want you to protect me as I travel on life’s way. I know you can. I know you will fight my battles if I be still. Lord, build a fence all around me every day. Oh, yeah. [laughing] [end singing] God has built a fence around me. I say that fence, because it’s His embracing love that I feel wrapped around me. I don’t let anybody outside that fence. I don’t let the negative come in anymore. Sure, there’s a lot of negativity out there, but it doesn’t have to come inside me anymore.
"In her last year of High School, Darlene's granddaughter gave birth to a baby girl."
Two months after the baby was born, she finally broke down and said she didn’t want to see the baby anymore. She didn’t want the baby around her. She didn’t want to be a mommy to her. So for 2 months I took care of that baby day and night. And she said she was going to give the baby away and I said, “I want her.” She said, “No. I don’t want anybody around me to have her, because I don’t want to see her.” I said, “Fine. I’ll move away from you, but I’ll take the baby. You don’t have to see me, either.” I said, “Just from this day forward, you might as well figure she’s my baby and I will treat her that way and I don’t want to hear anything else from you about it.” And I’ve had her ever since. Talk about change your life and having a baby at 53 years old, and here you’ve got a newborn baby. Wow! Especially when you have AIDS at my age, along with other medical issues and I get so fatigued. Three years later, we’ve made it through it. But she’s my great-grandbaby. She’s not just my granddaughter. She’s my great-granddaughter. And she’s been a blessing to me, and I feel like it’s been returned. I’ve been a blessing to her, because I give her so much love and attention.
[Ariana, wait for grandma!]
Since Ariana’s been around, I don’t get as depressed. I can’t be depressed and raise a baby. If she wasn’t here, I don’t want to imagine it. She is my alarm clock every morning. She’s the reason I go to the store and buy milk. She’s the reason I cook. I don’t take very good care of myself when it's just for me. She knows what they’re going to do when I walk in that room. And she’ll sit down on the bench by me and, “It’s going to be okay, grandma.” She’ll pet my arm or pat my face and stand up and hug me. She’s just so compassionate, so full of love for me. I worry about the AIDS, especially since my T-cells has been so low. I got my results back and my T-cells is higher now than they’ve been since the year 2000. It’s still under 200, but it’s the highest.
It’s been 15, almost 16 years now. I have to keep living. I have two daughters, seven grandchildren now, and two great-grandbabies. I keep living. And I have the faith. I have the faith that they’re going to take my blood and they’re going to come back out and they’re going to say, “There’s no sign of this virus in your blood.” And I’m just going to start bawling like crazy, because it’s going to happen. Everybody looks at me like I’m nuts when I say that to them, but it’s gonna to happen. Something else might wipe me out, but AIDS ain't gonna to wipe me out. It’s not gonna wipe me out. It’s not gonna do it. I’m not going to let it and God’s not gonna let it.