When my gay brother, Brad, was sick with HIV, the resulting infections grew worse and more frequently occurring. His doctors kept saying that he was not responding to medication and would die soon.

Brad talked to me about what he wanted as his legacy — what he wanted people to remember after he died. He wanted to make sure his life and suffering were not wasted. He had something he had learned that he told me to communicate to others to help them, so I am passing his story and words on to you right now as he asked.

Brad told me to share this Scripture (Proverbs 6:27-28) with anyone thinking of playing around “just a little” with sexual sin:

“Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?”

Clearly, my gay brother had been burned and burned to the extreme.

What started as “just a little” seemingly harmless sexual experiments ended as an out-of-control obsession that was literally killing my brother.

When we were kids, Brad and I just so happened to talk about what would happen if either of us were sick one day and could not speak. We agreed that if that ever happened, we would communicate by a hand signal — grabbing tighter meant yes, and letting go meant no.

The night before he died, Brad’s breathing grew labored, and he fought for each breath. I knew he was going to die and that I could no longer be beside him after death as he went through … whatever happens. I was powerless, but God could go with him — even through death!

I asked my brother if he wanted me to pray, but he could not speak. So, he grabbed my hand, then my wrist, then up the arm to my elbow.

I remembered our childhood conversation; I understood perfectly. He was saying yes, YES, YES!!

I prayed that God would be with my brother and help him through this. Brad grabbed my arm again in agreement. I cried. I knew God would go with him in death, helping him where I couldn’t in that moment.

The following day, I was helping a nurse turn over my brother, and he moaned in pain and took his last breath. His heart stopped.

It was over….

A few days after Brad’s funeral, my parents got a call from his so-called high school girlfriend. She said she was recently divorced and wanted to know how Brad was doing. They told her he had just died. She burst into tears and hung up. She had NO idea that he was gay or sick from an HIV infection.

We never heard from her again.

Have you ever had to say goodbye to someone who lost their fight with HIV/AIDS? Have you ever said goodbye to a brother or other close male friend in death? How did you move on?

* Photo courtesy morgacito, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • More than a few times, I held on to a good friends hand as they left this world from an Hiv infection. I saw so many of my friends and acquaintances around me dropping like flies. I felt like I needed to be strong so I could be there to support other friends that just found out they were HIV+ and others that were already sick. I don’t know how I managed to stay healthy for 26 years. If I could go back and do it over, I would not make the same stupid decisions I did. It wasn’t worth it.
    It’s not worth it! Why would you risk your life just for a couple minutes of sexual sin? Is having un safe sex with someone really worth risking your life for? No, it’s not. You’re also pushing God out of your life when you act out.
    I turned away from living a gay life for almost 30 years and I’ve never been as happy as I am now when I got God back in my life! He is worth it!

  • Oh, man, that’s rough. As I talk to more older people, I realize how much I have to learn and how much in life I haven’t experienced.

    • Karl, you do get more life experience as you get older, but it is the way you respond to that experience that makes a huge difference in how it helps you. If you turn to God in your time of need and He helps you through it, then you will trust Him and you will have more courage the next time things go bad.

  • That is devastating, Marshall, and his suffering is not wasted. When we were first married my wife felt she had a “word of knowledge” about a staff member she supervised. She felt she was supposed to talk to him as he was struggling with homosexuality. There was no outward evidence of this. He was a macho cowboy. I had been raised in a church where the gifts had been misused repeatedly, so I initially forbid her to do this. It sounded bizarre, and she could lose her job as a result. But she persisted, and I gave in. When she talked to him he was astonished. He had been living a double life for a few years, hitting the local bars late at night and fellowshipping at a highly legalistic pentecostal church the rest of the week. He had just learned that he may have AIDS. He couldn’t talk to anyone as he knew his church members would shun him. He was blown away that God would reach out to him in a miraculous way despite his poor choices. We became pretty close, walking CA beaches and discussing his fears and plans. It was AIDS. He moved back east a few months later for treatment in a VA. He died there at peace with God. I try to remember this when I am getting carried away with the notion of my “superior” wisdom. If we had followed my wisdom, he may have died alone and unrepentant.[

  • Heartbreaking to read this. Absolutely heartbreaking. I’ve never experienced that myself. I was scared to death of getting diseases when I was younger, but I went ahead and slept with a couple women, then a man a few years later. That was 2003. I’ve kissed a few men since, and I still worry about getting *something*! I’ve personally been essentially celibate though, and it hurts, and it sucks being alone, and it cause me to isolate and start drinking. As for this situation, I can’t imagine that man’s physical and emotional pain as he stood on the edge of eternity.

    • Joshua, I understand how tough it is to be alone. I have also been celibate for years, but thankfully I am not alone! God has blessed me with genuine friends who really show their love in meaningful but non-sexual ways. Because of fellowship with God and friends I can honestly say that I am happier than I’ve ever been!
      If you lived near me in the Washington DC suburbs I would definitely invite you to get to know my Christian friends. If you don’t live nearby I think you should step out and take risks to befriend Christian guys. It is worth whatever awkwardness that might happen.

      • Thank you so much, brother. I’ve recently been extremely interested in meeting guys like me here where I live, in Tulsa. I’m pretty spirit-filled and a chill guy. I met a younger man recently on a social media app, and he attends a Bible-based college. We’ve become instant friends, through Insta/Snapchat/FB, and talk on the phone often. Despite his impeccable manners and respect towards me (someone he doesn’t really know), he’s still not totally upfront with me, and is a little resistant towards me,and it hurts, honestly. At the present, he informed me he is now wanting, yet not wanting, to ‘come out’ to his strict parents and is extremely nervous.

        • Joshua, do you know Jonathan Martin? Or perhaps even go to his church in Tulsa? He used to pastor my old church in Charlotte, Renovatus, and though I never met him, I follow him on social media and hope to hear him speak live or even meet him face-to-face one day.

          • No, sir. I don’t believe I’ve heard the name. I sometimes go to a large-ish, Charismatic/Evangelical church called Victory. Paul Daugherty, son of Billy Joe Daugherty. I wasn’t really a practicing Christian (or “born again” believer) until about late 2012 – early 2013, so I’m new to the local church culture. I also didn’t know there are “gay”/affirming churches here in the Bible Belt, either! haha! Not my thing. But, thanks man, I’ll look into Mr Martin.

    • Thanks for sharing so vulnerably, Joshua. So glad you’re here with us.
      And thank you, Marshall, for sharing the arc of your brother’s turning away and return to Christ. What a legacy indeed.

  • My older brother died almost three years ago from cancer. We had been estranged for many years, because of his mental health problems. My father and I fought the mental health system for years trying to get my brother help he needs. In the end he had a court appointed guardian and court ordered medication for his mental health problems. When he was on his medicine, he was no longer violent nor always angry.
    At this point, I was able to visit my brother and tell him I loved him. I never had a visit that we didn’t touch! And I always kissed him on his forehead before I left. In the end, when we knew he was dying, my sister and I brought photos from our lives together and showed him the photos and talked about our memories. We also talked about our faith in Jesus. It was a sweet time for all of us. I left to return to my work (outside the USA) knowing I wouldn’t see my brother again alive on this earth. But I had had a sweet summer with him and I have the hope that we will meet again in heaven. That is how I said goodbye to my brother who died.

    • It is amazing how the Holy Spirit is always at work at reconciliation and healing. I’m glad you had that sweet summer, Alan. My wife was largely estranged from her dad for most of her life. He molested her as a child. When he contracted a terminal illness, she became his care provider and lead him to Christ just prior to his death. She has about 1/6 of a summer of sweet memories to compensate for a near lifetime of bad ones.

      • Yes, God can even enable reconciliation when there was abuse. Although there was obviously no danger to your wife, it is always good in abusive situations if the victim is careful to be protected from further abuse.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your brother, but glad you reconciled. It is always worth attempting reconciliation with an estranged family member if they allow it. It costs you but the long term peace is so worthwhile!

      • Absolutely Marshall! My dad had also been estranged from my brother for many years and after I began to visit my brother, I convinced my dad to go with me and they also were able to reconcile. I think it was a huge gift to my father and well worth the effort. After death there is no chance to change a broken relationship. Glad we made the effort! God blessed us!

  • What a powerful series of posts Marshall. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing some of the wisdom you have harvested from this difficult season. Blessings to you, brother!

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