A Complicated Grief:
A Daughter's Story Of Love and Loss
Memoir In Progress
In 1985, when I was thirteen years old, my father, a prominent general and thoracic surgeon, was infected with HIV from contaminated blood during open-heart surgery when he suffered a heart attack at age 42. Ignorance and hysteria about AIDS were at their heights, and in Canada, where we lived, rumors swirled about publically identifying and quarantining AIDS patients and their families. Believing he had only months to live and afraid of the stigma of this disease, my father decided to keep his illness a secret. No one imagined that he would live another ten years. But he did. And for ten years, the secret of his illness and the specter of disaster that inevitably loomed ahead defined my life. The complicated nature of his disease and the grief of his death have had an indelible impact on me. Now, 42 myself, writing my memoir is an attempt to understand that impact. My sense of self, my worldview, my faith, and my family are among the threads that weave this story together.
Orville James Messenger
1942 - 1995