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Spiritual Support and HIVSpiritual Support and HIV
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Need insight and guidance
Nov 9, 1998

Father, I'm in a sticky situation and need some experienced guidance from you. My son became ill about two years ago and due to increasing hospital visits because of pneumonia, he finally called me to say that he has terminal cancer. Because he is too ill to hold down a job, he lives with us in a small apartment that we built for him downstairs. I live with him and see his health declining every day and I see soooo many of the symptoms of AIDS, not cancer. I understand that many HIV+ folks say that they have cancer instead. I know that this is his right to keep it to himself, but carrying this burden all alone is taking a tremendous toll on his health. Before he broke the news about the cancer, I addressed his reluctance to seek medical help. I told him that even if it turned out to be AIDS that it wouldn't change my love for him and that if everyone else deserted him that I would be with him through it all...that he would never be alone. My question is whether or not I should ask him directly if it is AIDS. I would be willing to keep his secret, but he wouldn't have to carry this burden alone. Or should I just ponder these things in my heart and wait until HE brings it up to me? Actually, it doesn't really matter what it is...but something is killing my only son and he's only 31 years old. PLEASE answer my concerns drawing on your knowledge and experience. Thank You, A Mom

Response from Father DeMartini

Dear Mom,I thank you for your letter. I am writing you from Fort Worth where I am attending a national Catholic meeting. This morning I heard a speaker talk about the importance of honesty as a form of caring. I know myself how we struggle to withhold an honest question or observation so as not to hurt or push away someone we love. I think that we can be honest without being critical or judgmental--you have made it clear to your son that his diagnosis is not the criteria for loving him--he is your son and your mother's love is clear and inviting. Perhaps you son is still afraid even with all the words you have shared and the love and acceptance you have shown. From your heart and with simple clear words, I encourage you to talk to him about your own fear and questions--maybe this will help free him to talk about his--whether or not it is because of AIDS. I hope that more parents and family will be as loving and tender as you--you are a gift to your son and a model for all of us. I will keep you both in my prayers. Please stay in touch. Fr. Rod

Moral Dilemma: Declining Medical Therapy for HIV

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