May 25, 2011
I (Sarah) don't want to sound trite when I take on this topic -- I think this one little word carries with it so much meaning -- both positive and negative. I shared in my introduction post a time in my life when I felt quite deeply the lack of hope -- probably better termed despair. What I have shared with few others is just how far into despair I was.
The week that I was diagnosed with HIV I was driving across the mountains of Colorado in a snowstorm headed to a speaking engagement. I was all alone on a mountain pass. Nobody else was foolish enough to be attempting the switchbacks in the storm. Truth be told -- I was just one wrong turn of the steering wheel -- one nudge of the gas pedal or the brakes at the wrong moment away from plunging down the mountain side. It was sure tempting to just quit looking through my tear-fogged eyes and end it all right there. No more waiting, imagining terrible endings to my life.
But I didn't do it. I now believe that God was there with me -- reminding me of some kids that I had committed to helping. I thought of how terrible it would be for them to get the news. And I very carefully, with shaking hands and pounding heart, finished that journey.
Sometimes now, looking back, it is hard to believe that I was ever in that place. Just the other day Carmen Anthony, Abbi and I were being interviewed about our lives with HIV for a TV spot to help our local AIDS Service Organization. The reporter was asking us about what it was like to be diagnosed with HIV. I was attempting to convey the fear, the hopelessness and the sense of shame that I felt. But Abbi was climbing up and down off of the sofa -- attempting to jump onto pillows, feeding her ponies flowers and singing "Old McDonald Had a Farm EIEIO and on that farm he had a dog and Bingo was his name-o ..." I had a terrible time not laughing with her 2-year-old enthusiasm, joy and life! There is something about little people that brings a sense of hope into even the darkest places. Hang around somebody like that for too long and you just might find yourself laughing and singing silly songs, too!
When I (Carmen Anthony) was first diagnosed with AIDS, lying in a hospital bed with 5 T cells and 6 weeks to live, a lot went through my mind, including what would happen to me after I died. I said I wasn't ready to die yet, and I am sure glad I chose not to. Now I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful daughter.
I spent about three weeks in the hospital and six months in an assisted living home eating "gourmet" food and learning how to walk again. All that time, I had my guitar with me, sitting on a music stand. I kept looking at it, wanting to play it, but I just didn't have the strength to do it. It wasn't just my body -- I had so much despair and anger in me it was hard to motivate myself to get healthy again so I could continue living.
I went to visit my doctor during this time and he asked me what I wanted to do for the next 20 years. I said to him "music -- I have a lot of songs to write" He told me "get off your A** and do it!" That started the ball rolling. My first song, Dead Man Walking, expresses that period (you can hear it on an earlier post.) Music gave me hope and a will to go on. I've been writing ever since -- songs of healing, love, peace, faith, worship ... songs that express my journey.
Sarah, Abbi and Carmen Anthony