My Time of Dying

I wrote this poem in December 1984.

San Francisco’s gay men were hit hard by the AIDS epidemic: the sick and dying were everywhere and no one really knew how HIV was transmitted.

As the number of cases increased most of the healthy men I knew thought they were they were going to sicken and die.

The press called us the worried well.

With cases of AIDS becoming more widespread every week, the United States is undergoing a second, related epidemic–fear of AIDS.  The Chicago Tribune August 1985

I was 31. This is how I wanted to die.

If now is my time of dying
let it be a time of giving
a time of joy
an exchange of one gift
for another
to be part of the plan
aware of the plan
God grant me grace
in this interlude
this movement foreword
this final act of life.

‘My Time of Dying’ Rob Goldstein 1984-2019
 Portrait of Rob Goldstein by Nina Glaser

60 thoughts on “My Time of Dying

  1. A very moving poem, and very generous sentiments. I doubt I could feel that way at the time of my dying. I think I’d belong more to the “rage, rage against the dying of the light” approach.

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  2. I remember these times so well, Rob. However, I never really wrote about them much, although my diary from 1988 did mention a few hospital visits to see friends who were in hospital. It was the lack of information at the time about Aids that caused me to not think about it too much. However, as the 1980s turned into the 1990s, Aids started to play a bigger part of my life as more information was given to us. I lost three very dear friends to the condition, one of whom I shared many happy memories. I still miss him to this day.

    The portrait of you by Nina is beautiful, as is your poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment, Hugh. I think different people experienced the epidemic differently based on where they were. I had friends in New England who seemed oblivious to the epidemic. I moved to San Francisco which in the 1980’s had the largest population of gay men in the U.S. As the epidemic worsened the sick were everywhere. Thank you for your comments on Nina’s portrait of me. I’ve always liked it.

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  3. This is beautiful, Rob. Mother Teresa said it best: Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
    Peace begins with a smile..
    If you judge people, you have no time to love them. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can only imagine what a confusing, scary, and challenging time this must have been. Your poem is very touching and full of faith. I was a young teenager in 1984. I heard about AIDS and learned how it can be caught but it felt so surreal in my young world. Looking back at it today I can understand the horror so many went through.
    I love the song. Brings back a lot of memories.

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    1. In retrospect, the song reflects the ‘plague year’s’ sense of desperation that took hold of San Francisco’s radical gay community in late 1984: the ‘laying of hands’ is an of miraculous healing. Those of us who felt deeply committed to gay liberation not only lost friends and supports, some of us felt we had lost our reason to live.

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      1. I am glad you explained the meaning. When I was 15 I did not think of the meaning of songs in a different language… unless it was a love song, maybe. So I never knew about the deeper meaning. Thank you for this, Rob!!

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  5. An immensely powerful and touching piece of poetry, Robert. And it speaks so profoundly of your generous and beautiful soul. I need to get some tissues. Thanks for sharing your poem with us.

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    1. Thank you, Michael. It was a terrible time and yet it brought out the best in us. I hope when America recovers from Trump we’ll be able to discuss the AIDS epidemic and its impact on our lives and politics.

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      1. Some things we don’t really recover from in the sense of going back to who we were. Some events endure because they change us in thousands of unknown ways. My hope is that we will learn and continue to grow as a species. Thank you, Michael. 🙂

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  6. Wow, Rob. You vividly brought back the memory of those years. As the epidemic worsened, everyone worried. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the gay community… A horrible, horrible time. Yet you extracted something beautiful from it.
    The portrait is amazing. Of course she had a wonderful subject. 😀 Nina did a fantastic job with lighting and pose. It’s outstanding work on her part.
    Hugs on the wing.

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    1. Thank you, Joanne. I produced most of my writing during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. When I found this poem, I was surprised because it reflects a moment of grace and clarity. I’m glad you see it too. 🙂


      1. At the time when I read your post, it reminded me of a poem written by Leonard Cohen that was published posthumously.

        I couldn’t find the poem at the time, but have since found it. The first and last stanza were:

        I pray for courage
        Now I’m old
        To greet the sickness
        And the cold.

        I pray for courage
        At the end
        To see death coming
        As a friend.

        There is such a sad hope in these words that really touched me.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Paula. Most people don’t think of gay rights activists as soldiers, but that’s what we are. I am not comparing the dangers faced by gay activists with the danger of going into armed conflicts but studies show that the survivors of the AIDS epidemic have the same pattern of PTSD symptoms as our soldiers returning from Viet Nam and Iraq.

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