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For Better or for Worse

By Rev. Andrena Ingram

June 2, 2013

wedding photo

Grief is funny ... you go through the stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Supposedly in that order.

I grieved the death of my husband for years, went through all the stages, but am finding that even after the stage of acceptance, one can revisit the stages all over again!

It's been 19 years since my husband passed away, from AIDS-related issues.

And right now, I find myself depressed and angry as hell at him. I know he couldn't help himself -- his stigma and shame was ALL-consuming; consumed the life right out of him ... and a part out of me, and his son as well.

Once he received his diagnosis, he just stopped living. Oh, he kept going to school, kept going to work, kept doing the "normal" things people do in life. But the shame ... oh the shame of it, wouldn't allow him to seek treatment. The shame of having HIV wouldn't allow him to go into a pharmacy to pick up his medication. The shame and "perceived stigma" from others just would not allow him to live "positively" with HIV. And I suppose, only being out of treatment for a little while, his shame was compounded with his intravenous drug use. And we shouldn't forget that he was watching his friends die at an alarming rate. And the stigma? Stigma began inside of himself. That cunning bitch, stigma. It will have you stigmatizing yourself ... which is what happened with my husband, and he let stigma have its way with him.

Although this "pastoral part" of me understands, I'm angry at you, Warren, for not trying. I thought you loved me. Your refusal to fight has affected us. It's been 19 years, and I still think about you every now and then. I think about you after a hard day. I think about you as our son struggles to find his way in this world. I can only do so much. And I have done a lot, in spite of the societal statistics placed upon our young African-American men. You'd be proud of him. He is a good person, just like you. A good human being, who has missed a very important piece in his life: You.

It's been hard. It is hard. And I am angry at you for not being here to help me. I can't say for certain, but I suppose a part of your son is angry at you as well -- as he watches his mother fight and medicate. Why couldn't, why wouldn't you do the same?

I often wonder where we would be as a couple now? Only God, in God's mysterious All-Knowing, knows.


God did what God always does ... does things without our permission, so that God would get the glory.

And so ...

Had you not died, I would not be living the life I am living now (not a grand life -- on an economic scale, by any means -- but living my life trying to help others). Had you not died, I would probably still be lying on that couch in the Bronx, covered up in despair from your diagnosis. You see, I had a bit of stigma in me too, before I was diagnosed. Had you not died, I might have died. I suppose God knew that my "living" and my fighting to live, and fighting for others to live, and fighting against that shame and stigma -- would better serve God's purpose and give God the glory ...

When I really think about it, I wonder where we would be had Christ not died for us? We'd be dead. The walking dead.

So, while I miss you with all my heart -- my "Black Mr. Rogers" -- I suppose I should take some solace in that, and know that we shall see one another again, when I have finished doing whatever else God has planned for me. I suppose in a crazy sort of way, I should thank God for my husband dying.

One thing I do know, and hold on to with all my being is this:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares The Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.

-- Jeremiah 29:11

My anger will dissipate, I'll continue to care for my bouts of depression, and I will once again go back into the acceptance stage, and be all right ...

I will continue to give God the glory. I will continue to tell you to get tested. I will continue to tell you to know your status. I will continue to tell you to protect yourself ... and I will continue to share my experiences, so that others may be encouraged ...

... it is simply the Way. Thanks be to God.

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Is the Ribbon Enough?

Rev. Andrena Ingram

Rev. Andrena Ingram

Reverend Andrena Ingram (also known as "Pastor Andrena" or "Pastor Ingram") has become a strong advocate for those living in the margins, as she once was. She is an activist in the HIV/AIDS arena, herself living openly and unabashedly with the HIV virus for over 22+ years.

Raised in South Jamaica, New York, Reverend Ingram served seven years of active duty in the U.S. Army. She would later move to the South Bronx, where she attended Transfiguration Lutheran Church with Pastor Heidi Neumark as her pastor and mentor -- empowering her to rise up out of herself and her life challenges, which seemed to her, at the time, insurmountable.

Reverend Ingram is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with a Master of Divinity. She has been the pastor of St. Michael's Lutheran Church on Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa., for the past four years.

Reverend Ingram can frequently be found speaking about HIV/AIDS, encouraging everyone "to know your status, get tested, and be informed." Silence = Death.

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