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Through And Beyond AIDS
By Deirdre Rhodes (Patwant Kaur)

In 1997, my world radically shifted. One day while my partner Mike was at work, I was packing his ironed clothes back into his cupboard. From underneath this pile slipped a hotel bill. This was nothing strange as he had just returned from Swaziland, where he had played a gig. He was an engineer by day and a musician by night. On closer inspection of the bill, I saw that it was for two, not one, as it should have been. This was all starting to feel like an episode out of “Days of Our Lives.” It perturbed me, but I still thought there must be a logical explanation for this. For the whole day I sat with this information, mulling it over and over in my overactive mind. I said nothing.

The next morning, I asked him whether he had had an affair. I showed him the hotel bill. He had just opened his eyes and was steeped in sleep, a hard time to lie. He admitted that, yes, he had. I felt my heart shred, explode and crumble, my breath lost somewhere between the inhale and exhale, my thoughts blazing in a trillion manic directions. My illusion shattered.

At the time, our daughter Maya was 12 months old and I was still breastfeeding her. I was twenty four, which sounds really young now, but then I didn’t feel it. I was so ready to be a mother and loved every precious minute of it. We had had unprotected sex since his return from Swaziland, as any committed couple would do. After his admission, an AIDS test was my first thought. He refused to go, said I was overreacting, and then on top of this, he tried to deny the affair after admitting it to me that morning. Confusion, fear and doubt reigned supreme. I needed clarity and eventually, after much heated debate, he went for the test. In those days I think we had to wait a torturous two weeks for the results.

I will never forget the phone call that turned my life on its head, and catapulted me into the depths of what would become the awakening to my spiritual journey, my spiritual self. He said he needed to come home and talk to me. He had never said that before and nothing had ever dragged him home from work, other than the birth of his daughter. I knew, knew he had received his results and was HIV positive. I felt myself leaving my body and thinking: This cannot be my life. I can’t die of AIDS. I need to live. I need my daughter to live.

I was holding in so much, my anger at him for the betrayal which I couldn’t even process yet, the details and the questions, and the why me’s and why now’s, and why her and how many others, haunted me. These were all for later. My focus very strongly became LIVING. It felt like a very simple choice to me whether I was HIV positive or not. Do I choose to live or do I choose to die? I needed to live. My daughter needed to live.

I had started exploring spirituality, and was at the time reading a Shirley Maclaine book that, among other things, dealt with astral travel and psychic surgery; this all made so much sense to me and I resonated deeply with it. I believed in miracles, I believed in healing, I believed in the power of visualization, and I was going to live! So from that moment on, I locked myself into my own healing world; I’d deal with my anger later.

I went for my test and then the epic wait began. I didn’t waste a moment. I meditated, visualized, affirmed. I went through a little directory of alternative healers and found a Reiki Master. I‘d never heard of Reiki before and thought I’d give it a try. I went for a healing. I can’t remember whether I went for this healing before or after my first AIDS test. The healer made me hold a Kyanite, the stone of Archangel Michael. What a powerful healing session it was. Never had I experienced something like this. I do believe that if any cell in my body was HIV positive, this is the healing that released it.

I spun out of my body and found myself one with the Universe. I was literally spinning out beyond the earth and into the cosmos, vibrating with such love and ecstasy that I felt my heart would explode.  I had such a strong urge to laugh, but was still acutely aware that I was in the back room of a small crystal jewelry and esoteric book shop, so somehow managed to contain myself. My internal laughter continued. I felt a dormant energy within me being released and awakened–Kundalini energy, as I understand it now. It healed me in some profound way.

All I know is that a powerful healing and awakening took place, the first I had ever experienced. My test results came back negative. After the six month window period I had another test, again negative. It was during that six month window that I moved to Cape Town, and did my Reiki 1 and 2. I am now a Reiki Master and have also discovered Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, which I have been teaching since 2001.

My partner struggled with accepting his status and had many tests in the hope that there was some kind of mistake. He died after 5 years of living HIV positive. I found myself trying to heal him, fix him, offering him all these amazing alternative healing techniques that would surely work. It took me so long to realize that he didn’t want to. His soul journey was different to mine; he had to walk his path, and dying when he did was part of that journey for him.

Our relationship after his affair was not easy. Dealing with betrayal in any relationship is heartbreaking. Trust is broken. It is so hard to accept that the person you trust the most, confide in, and love the deepest has betrayed you; AIDS multiplies the betrayal by a million.

There are so many reasons for affairs; whatever the reason does not in any way make it easier. I felt torn. I always used to say to him that if he wanted to end the relationship, he should just have an affair and it would instantly be over. I did leave for about a month; I then came back to see if we could live through this together, if I could ever trust him again. In very different ways, we both struggled. I couldn’t trust him again.

I also felt a sense of responsibility for his health; I felt I should look after him. I still loved him deeply. I felt such a deep sadness about the affair, and was still so angry that he kept on changing his story about what had happened, but my love didn’t just stop. The only way I could see this relationship working was for me to move. I needed to be on my own with my daughter, where I could focus on my own healing and process this experience, but still be a positive support to him. We lived like this until he died.

He was dealing with so much as well. His guilt was deep; this is nothing he ever verbalized, but rather something I could see. Once he had received the initial results, he completely retreated into himself, locked himself into a very dark world. He became distant and self destructive. He started drinking a lot, numbing all the pain and deep fear. He also refused to tell anybody his status, so we held this on our own.

He was on a music tour in Europe when he got sick. He didn’t tell me. He flew home to Durban and one of his sons phoned to tell me that I had better come and visit because his father was dying. At that stage, I had to tell his friends and family that he was HIV positive. I wasn’t sure if he had told anyone yet or not. We stayed with him for a week. I have no idea how he survived that week. He refused to go to the hospital and a very good friend of his looked after him. He was skin and bone. He could barely breathe and could hold no food down. We cooked for him, bathed him, gave him Reiki, massaged him, and gave him love.

Maya, our daughter, had spent a few days with a friend in the Midlands, a couple of hours outside of Durban and Mike, in this state of barely breathing, insisted that he come with me to pick her up. We were silent for most of the journey. Each breath for him was a struggle for survival. As I drove, I tried to match his breath. I couldn’t. I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my body. Tears streamed as I told him that it was okay for him to let go if he needed to, but it was equally okay to fight to live if that was what he needed to do. I didn’t want him to feel responsible for us. I didn’t want him to hold on and stay here for us, if it was going to be so hard.

When we arrived home, he was too weak to walk. I had to put him on my back and carry him inside, the fact that I could do this gives you an indication of how light he was. I needed to leave after a week as I had to get back to Cape Town for work. He died the following week. A friend, who hadn’t seen him yet, arrived at his house and insisted that he go to the hospital. He died on the same day.

Mike was an incredibly loving and caring person. He had a tough childhood where he had to grow up very quickly. He was driven, stubborn and strong, and knew how to survive. He taught himself how to play the guitar, and put himself through night school to get an education. He was eighteen years old when he owned his first pair of shoes. He was separated from his mother at a very young age, and spent most of his childhood trying his best to be reunited with her. This was a constant childhood trauma for him. He had so many years of pain within him that he hadn’t even begun to process. He didn’t know how. With his gigantic heart he loved his daughter deeply, and they shared a very strong bond. She was five years old when he died.

I can honestly say that this major challenging heartbreak and shattering pain was such an enormous gift in my life. On a soul level, I understand that we all chose this experience. I now know my strength, I know my innate power. I know I am a spiritual being here on earth to learn very specific lessons. I was tested right down to the core of my being, and survived with such a deep understanding of the gift of each breath. I am a different person because of it.

I feel deeply blessed to have shared the experiences we had together. We taught each other so much, and we have a beautiful daughter that holds her father’s memory deep within her cells.

Deirdre Rhodes Bio:

I write articles, poetry, plays and come from a performance  and teaching background.  I have been teaching Kundalini Yoga  for 9 years and am a Reiki Master. I have mainly written articles about the benefits of yoga and my spiritual, healing experiences. I have also developed and written content for lesson plans in accordance with  the National Curriculum here in Cape Town South Africa.  You can e-mail me at suryawellnessprogramme@gmail.com.

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