Prizm News / April 1, 2018 / By Morgen Spon

Memories of a friend gone too soon motivate a group of AIDS Walk participants in Columbus.

Words. A blur of words. Head spinning. A rush of emotions. A sickening feeling ensues.It’s amazing how many words and phrases can be thrown out in a matter of minutes that the human mind and spirit are expected to digest and understand.

“I’m positive.”
“It’s not like have you AIDS.”
“Hope. We have hope.”
“Test him for CMV, again.”
“We’ve haven’t seen anything like this in someone so young since the ‘80s.”
“What is his CD4 count at?”
“AIDS. I have AIDS.”
“Hope. We still have hope.”
“Why did this happen to me? I don’t want to die.”
“Keep fighting…”
“We love you. We will never stop loving you.”
“I love you.”
“Hospice.”
“He’s gone.”

Dominic had been sick with pneumonia for months when he told me he was positive and I looked at him and said OK, we’ll get through this. I remember riding in a car and reaching for his hand and squeezing it. I miss that.

I miss everything about him. I miss his big, beautiful smile. His laugh. His dramatic but hilarious demeanor. His ability to make everyone feel loved and important. I miss his hugs.

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We all do.

The DOMMSQUAD formed. We’re a group of friends and strangers who were bonded by Dominic’s light and love.

Moments of utterly discouraging confusion and denial grew to complete, painful clarity and then transitioned to an overwhelming sense of love. We each collectively and individually felt this range of emotions as we watched our best friend, Domm, at age 29, in the fight of his life against HIV/AIDS.

And that’s just what we were feeling. Although supported and surrounded by loved ones, Domm had to face and feel many of those truths alone.

Things progressed quickly. Throughout the four months he was sick, we learned that the most difficult conversations and experiences were the most important ones, that denial causes suffering, and that the most impactful way to live is through unconditional love.

“The brave friendship with another human.
Where they take your horrors, love them, and
remind you how you were not born to walk
alone. They go through hell and come back
with you no matter what.

—R.M. Drake

But that is not what we did for Dominic; that is what he did for us. We learned, through him, just how precious life is. That the most meaningful moments are fleeting but never forgotten. And to always say, “I love you.”

And that is why we will never stop saying his name and smiling, sharing his story and celebrating the immeasurable soul that was Domm.

HIV/AIDS does not care how full of life you are. It does not care that you love to dance and make people laugh. It does not care about the gaping holes burned into the hearts of loved ones left behind.

Dominic’s story—and our journey as the DOMMSQUAD—is just one of the many chapters in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We know there are so many other hearts that have felt the unbearable pain of this disease, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

So today we unite. We unite to live our most authentic lives. To remind ourselves and others that whatever our “status” might be, when we live our most authentic lives we create space for others to do the same.

Get tested. Take care of yourself. Be happy.

And most of all, live to your fullest potential.

OHIO’S AIDS WALKS

Sunday, April 8

Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati

Robert J. Fass AIDS Walk Central Ohio
Saturday, April 14
McFerson Commons, Columbus

Friday, June 8

Fifth Third Field Plaza, Dayton

AIDS Walk Greater Toledo
Saturday, June 23
Ottawa Park, Toledo

 

Bob Vitale
Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, he has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Contact: BobVitale@prizmnews.com