He was agitated with the business of dying, and told me he couldn’t bear to miss what mighthappen after he’d gone. I had an idea.“I tell you what,” I offered, “I’m from the future, and I can tell you anything you would like toknow.”“OK then, what happens to my parents?” he asked. I thought it might be a distracting game, butJeremy’s confused mind took it very seriously.“They went to Hollywood and won big on a game show, so they never did need your support intheir old age,” I answered. He barely took the time to enjoy this thought before his hand grabbedmy wrist, tightly, almost frantically. He pulled me closer.“When …” he began, and a mournful sob swelled inside him in an instant, his eyes begging for relief. “When does this end?” There was an awful, helpless silence. His eyes beckoned for a truthhe could die believing.“It does end,” I finally managed, although nothing suggested it would. “It ends, Jeremy, but notfor a really long time.” He digested each word like a revelation, and slowly relaxed into sleep.There is compassion here, enough for all the world’s deities and saints acting in concert. Infinitecompassion for men who lived in fear and checked every spot when they showered for Kaposisarcoma, and for disowned sons wasting away in the guest room of whoever had the space. Butwe get older, and friends don’t ask us to hold their hand when they stop breathing, and the fear fades and I bought new leather loafers and the White Party is coming.The truth is simply this, and no one will convince me otherwise: My mostcourageous self, the best man that I’ll ever be, lived more than two decades ago during the firstyears of a horrific plague.He worked relentlessly alongside a million others who had no choice but to act. He secretly prayed to survive, even above the lives of others, and his horrible prayer was answered with thedeath of nearly everyone close to him.