A doctor who saw AIDS emerge from the remote pages of medical journals to become the killer of his own brother reflects on his personal loss, discussing the emptiness of viewing illness as a failure of individual responsibility
"I don't think there's anything worse than having to watch someone you love die." Writing both as a physician fighting the spread of AIDS and as a brother living with the loss of his twin to the disease, Ronald O. Valdiserri faces the epidemic with clarity and compassion. Gardening in Clay is the testimony of a doctor who saw AIDS emerge from the remote pages of medical journals to become the killer of his own brother. In a sequence of brief essays reflecting on personal loss with unprecedented insight into the social circumstances of the AIDS epidemic, the author illuminates a path from private anguish to public urgency.Valdiserri's observations about the blindness of fear and prejudice surrounding AIDS in the United States need to be heard everywhere. Deeply aware of the worth of each life sacrificed, he writes with conviction about the emptiness of viewing illness as a failure of individual responsibility, about the necessity that AIDS be perceived as "our" disease rather than "theirs," and about the validity - and the power - of rage.Against the suffering caused by AIDS and the added cruelty of widespread victim-blaming, Valdiserri weighs the promise of natural renewal. He writes of his dying brother's last garden, a place where strength and courage could be rewarded with life and beauty. And against the temptation to lose hope in the face of the enormity of the problem, Valdiserri raises a vision of healing. He likens the battle against AIDS to the struggle of gardening in soil filled with clay. If we continue to learn from each bitter loss, he believes, with every season there will be new growth.