Jun 21, 2001
I am crying as I'm writing this letter to you . My close friend had HIV since 1987 and AIDS since 1993 . He had severy neuropathy in his feet and could not walk . He has battled lymphoma twice , PCP two times , crypto , MAC and many other infections during the course of his disease . His medications stopped working and he was told he was resistant to most drugs . Last week he took an overdose of percotte and died in his sleep . He was a lovely man ,a warm caring human being . He had a great sense of humor and he was kind and compassionate . His smile was beautiful . Please Please tell me he didnt go to Hell . We were taught growing up that was Gods punishment for leaving in despair and rage . Can't God overlook the final act and instead see into the heart of the person , and the love he brought to this place while he was alive? Please Help me .
Response from Rabbi Sacks-Rosen
I am so saddened to hear of your loss. It sounds as if your friend was a wonderful person and a joy to be near. And a good friend to you. I can only imagine that many, many others share your loss as they were no doubt touched in very positive, joyous ways by his being the person he was.
This is important to take in, because sometimes when the deceased made a decision like that of your friend, surviviors are left with a maze of emotions--especially isolation and confusion. Please seek out others who knew your friend so that some of this time you can spend together, sharing memories and supporting one another.
Many traditions do not oppose all choices that might shorten one's stay on earth. I and many of my colleagues frequently support terminal patients and their families in decisions to end or limit treatment, even when knowing that the end will come sooner as a result. Sometimes, keeping someone alive at all costs--and I mean this on all levels--is not what God wants. God and the patient may well have been ready to reunite sooner.
It sounds as if your friend had already contended with far more than one should have to contend. A Yiddish saying teaches that "Alle meini sonim--Not even one of my enemies should have to go through this!!! (Let alone someone I love). Your friend's time to continue his journey in the next realm.
So, no! I do not believe your friend is in Hell. Rather, I believe God called him home, has taken him in,embraced him and is sheltering him under the wings of the Divine amidst all that is pure and radiant in the realm beyond.
The martyr Hannah Senesh (killed at a very young age parachuting behind enemy lines in World War II trying to save people from the Holocaust) wrote that there are stars in the sky that continuing shining even after they themselves have expired. And their are people whose lives continue to radiate even after they have gone.
Your friend was such a star. May his life continue to radiate in the hearts of those whose lives were touched by his. May his life inspire others to weave his gracefulness, warmth, caring nature, kindness and compassion into the fabric of their own lives, so that his soul will be bound up with the bond of life. May he rest eternally with full dignity and utmost peace, even as his memory remains an everlasting benediction.
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