Jun 29, 1998
A month ago the love of my life, Phil, died of a heart attack. Phil was someone I loved with all my heart. He had been sick with Cancer for 18 months and had recovered (as well as you can with the effects of radiation). His death was a great shock and an even greater loss to me. During his radiation treatment I tried and most of the time succeeded in loving him unconditionally. The memory I have of that love sustains me.
Two weeks after he died my son called me to tell me that he was HIV Positive. In the 2 weeks since and in the many conversations I have had with my son I have tried to love him unconditionally in spite of the fact that he has always been hard to deal with. He has always been so angry and I don't know where it comes from.
Loving him unconditionally has been hard because he is refusing treatment. He says that the treatment has too many side effects, doesn't work, and he doesn't want to live anyway and never has.
The greatest gift I feel I can give him is to let him do this even though it goes against everything I hold dear. It is hard not to yell at him and browbeat him and demand that he live for me and for the people who love him.
Please tell me how I can continue to just love my son in the way he needs to be loved. Tell me how to support this very angry child who has always wanted to punish the people who loved him, who is constantly picking fights and finding insult where none was intended.
In retrospect, it was so easy to love Phil unconditionally. I have a feeling that God gave me that gift and made it easy for me because he was preparing me for now.
| Response from Father DeMartini
Dear Friend---I certainly agree that your relationship with Phil and your mutual love for each other has not only enabled you ro face his death but can help you deal with your son's diagnosis.
I think that an important part of living toward unconditional love (which we really don't achieve perfectly!) is to be honest with ourselves and those we are striving to love. You can tell your son what the news of his diagnosis has meant for you as well as his attitude about treatment. This can be done without being judgemental or "browbeating". In doing this remember to speak about your own feelings and ideas and needs. He may not be able to hear them or accept them as his own and this is simply what makes you different. However, you can also let him know that you "love him anyway" beause he is your son and another human person deserving respect and care no matter what the differences.
I applaud your willingness to take this journey with your son after the pain our losing Phil--by the way, talk to Phil in your prayers and ask him to be close to you and help you find the right words of love for your son.
I will keep you in my prayers. Please keep in touch with me. Fr. Rod
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