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Monday, October 14, 2013

The Finish Line


This year marked the 20th annual AIDS WALK for Louisville! We couldn't have asked for a better day and I have many people to thank for making this day possible. A big thanks to Brad Hampton, the Walk's Event Director, for providing a golf cart for my children, so that they were able to participate in Louisville's AIDS Walk for the very first time. I can't tell you how special that made the day for my husband and I.

I also have to give a shout-out to Monkey Drive Screen printing for putting a rush on our T-shirts. They turned out A-mazing! But the biggest thanks of all goes to my husband, for just being the man and husband that you are, and for making "impossible" things possible. It's because of your determination and refusal to ever give up that we are healthy and well today. I love you.


Another big first was viewing a portion of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. I cannot even begin to describe the feeling that it evokes. Yes, sadness, but also peace, love and an incredible spirit from those whose lives each square represents.  A few minutes before the walk began, I noticed that Yonas, my eleven-year-old, had strayed from the pack and wondered over to The Great Lawn, a grassy area where pieces of the AIDS Memorial Quilt were on display. I walked over to him, and together we walked the aisles, viewing the names and precious keepsakes sewn into the fabric squares. Suddenly Yonas stopped.

"Hey Mom." Yonas reached my hand. "Look at this one," he said. The quilted square he pointed to was that of four white doves in flight that circled a poem titled, "White Wing Doves."

To be just like the white wing dove 
With a spirit that flys so wild and free
Even though all our fears and pain
We must find and get through within our soul
Our spirit inside tries hard to just let it be
Even all the tears and sorrows we'll have for life
The spirit will find the peace from within
So I pray to you dear Lord to please
Bless all spirits to be like white wing doves
With a blessing forever to fly so free
Just spread you wings.

~Michael D'Wayne Arder

I thought of my son as he read this poem out loud, and how ironic that his name, Yonas, in his native language (Amharic) means "White Dove," and it was all I could do to hold back my tears. We stood there for only a few moments, before I whispered, "Come on, time to go." Dawn G had just announced that the walk was ready to begin.

The ribbon, cut, fell to the ground and off the crowd went. Through the sea of people, I watched my family in front of me and I held tight to my husband's hand. "Thank you, God," I whispered.

I couldn't have asked for a better day, and as we crossed the finish line at this year's Louisville AIDS Walk, I was struck with this tremendous feeling of awe.

You see, that finish line symbolizes something far deeper for me. The end of AIDS. We will see that day and somewhere, watching over us, is an angel named Michael, whose life and struggle will never be forgotton.

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