Lazarus/ Living with AIDS Krandall Kraus
What’s that like, being brought back from the dead?
COMMENTARY: QUALITY OF LIFE VS. QUANTITY OF LIFE
July 28, 1999 from All Things Considered
NOAH ADAMS, host: Writer Krandall Kraus has been living with HIV since 1982. Lately, he's been thinking about a passage from St. Luke's Gospel, the story of the friend of Jesus named Lazarus, who was beckoned from his tomb four days after he died.
Do you ever wonder what Lazarus did after he was raised from the dead? Do you think he was happy about it? Or do you think he felt a bit manipulated? Made to roll over, sit up, play alive? I know just how he felt.
A few years ago, I was told to prepare to die, so I did. I looked into my heart, tore open my soul, faced both the beautiful and the ugly truths inside myself. I began every day by asking: If I knew I was going to die at midnight, what would I do today? And that's how I lived.
The paradox was that it made me happy, made me feel vibrantly alive, perhaps for the first time ever. Then I was given new medications and told to prepare to live. So I did, even though the drugs made me sicker than my disease ever had. I went back to doing what I thought I should do, rather than what I wanted to do. I bought into our society's intoxicating myth, that death comes only for others. I rolled over, sat up, played alive.
The paradox was that it made me uncomfortable, made me sadder than when I was dying. Last month, with the side effects from my drugs making me more and more miserable, I came to my senses again. I stopped taking my medications.
My friends who aren't infected with HIV can't understand it. My friends with AIDS and cancer understand only too well. Quality over quantity. Better to live better rather than longer. I suppose I could live for years if I took all the drugs that make me feel like I would rather be dead. Instead, I'm shamelessly happy, embarrassingly productive and love my life more than ever.
I think of Lazarus a lot these days, sitting there on his porch, watching the sun ease across the desert sky, waiting for the hoopla to die down so he could go back to what he knew best. I have learned the lesson of Lazarus and strive hard every day to remember it. I carry a string of prayer beads with me now and say this mantra all day long: I am living; I am dying. I am living; I am dying. This paradox I can live with. This paradox I understand.
ADAMS: Writer Krandall Kraus lives in San Francisco. He and his partner, Paul Borja, are writing the book "It's Never About What It's About: What We Learned About Living While We Were Waiting to Die."
Thinking inside the box, next on NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.