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Trying to Learn Unconditional Love
Jun 22, 1998

Dear Father Rodney,

I am trying very hard to learn how to love my son unconditionally. How be became HIV positive is unimportant to me, but what is important is that I know from his history that he probably will not be able to sustain the treatment. All his life he has wanted to easy way out of everything, even now he talks about holding off the beginning of treatment for 3 months while he winds things up in Nevada and comes home to us in New York.

Billy makes demands on his illness, as if he has any control. He says that he has to have his weekly marijuana and beers no matter what. He says that if the medication makes him sick he won't take it and will just wait to die.

Billy has been this way all his life and his father (we are divorced) and his sisters and I have spent a great deal of time trying to change him. I guess this letter is a request to you to please pray for me. I know that words will not change Billy, my own behavior will not change Billy. Only Billy can change himself and my role in his life for now and to the end has to be just to love him no matter what he chooses.

I know that it is not the disease that will kill my son; I know that it is his own life long behavior that will do it and I have to leave him to his own choices.

Can you help me do that?

Response from Father DeMartini

Dear Mom---Thank you for your very powerful and caring letter. Billy is very fortunate to have a mom as patient and accepting as you are. Indeed, your son has and will make his own choices and you have expressed your willingness to love him anyway. At the same time, love also invites us to speak our truth and concern--not in a judgmental or dismissive way but in a way that invites conversation and growth in understanding between people. In other words, if you don't understand Billy's choices, ask him about them and also be honest with him about your disaggreements and concerns. Try to make sure that when the separation of death comes, there is little left unspoken between you in a spirit of acceptance and love. I will keep you and Billy in prayer. Please stay in contact. Fr. Rod



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