Can We Understand Just a Little More?

Watching Eric reach for his trash can next to his bed while he was trying to get out of his wheelchair seemed just about as much as my emotions could stand. He leaned into it and gagged several times and nothing was coming up. Helpless? Oh you bet I felt helpless. Quickly my mind begins to spin remembering, yes I understand totally the HIV virus…how it spreads. Vomit just would not be one of the risks I would care to let splash on me. God tells me not to put Him to a foolish test and I do that daily without trying. When He reminds me clearly? I listen.

I have over the years worked closely with many diseases the men from the streets carry. Hepatitis is one that is extremely common and the rest? Only God knows. It is funny in an odd kind of way,,, if it was just me? I would handle situations such as Eric’s so differently. But I have so many lives that depend on me to let God work through  for them and I have to stay healthy. Being instructed by God is vital…

Many of you know me and my work. Simply from reading my blog you know that for me NOT to be able to jump up and assist Eric that afternoon was about to pull me in two. I am a hands on type person. If I can not touch I can not walk away and feel complete. Touching is important to healing but how do I do that with a 32-year-old young man with full-blown AIDS trying to release the nausea he was experiencing.

Walk back with me if you will… Let me introduce this treasure of a human being I have graciously had the privilege to get to know and understand these past few months. His name is Eric Shepard. “No “H” Miss Jaye” he likes to jokingly remind me ever since I put his name into the clothes we brought him. Eric arrived in the hospital naked…He lost everything!

He is a Georgia boy through and through. As you can see from his picture, if he was healthier? He is a cutie! To me, his adopted mom? I think Eric is handsome. I wish I knew him when…when he dug his toes in Georgia’s red clay. When He climbed trees and played in the woods in a small southern town tucked in between Atlanta and Columbus called Waverly Hall.

Sitting on his wheelchair that day he felt so sick, digging way deep inside of himself to find the strength to swing his body off the chair onto the bed he began to talk. “Why me? Why me?.” He wasn’t looking to Missy or I for an answer… “Why me God? What have I done that was so wrong?” Tears exploded behind my eyes as my heart broke for my young friend. I wanted to cover my ears so afraid that he may look my way and demand an answer from God…We let silence answer. “I do not know Eric.” WAIT!!! “No Eric, God doesn’t work this way…Dear God give me an answer!!!!” Silence.

Eric grew up during his teen years on the streets around Atlanta while his mom worked as a prostitute. He was introduced to the “ladies of the night” at a very young age… and drugs. But you see…that is not where Eric’s struggles started. He was sexually abused by a family member and when his mom left him, his sister and dad for her “job”… he was alone often. One morning when he was about 8 he went in to wake up his 44-year-old father, he was dead, from a massive heart attack! Mom came back into the picture.

Broken promises, broken dreams. He calls his mother by her first name and has no desire to see her. She has lied to him and broken his heart which has broken his love…Because his mother has been in and out of prison so much he stayed a lot in the tiny town of Waverly Hall escaping with drugs and alcohol. 

I met Eric before his accident. My husband told him one day. “Eric? You are young…get off the streets.” Crack was his drug of choice by now. He too was in and out of jail and girlfriends? They were prostitutes. He was taught well by his mom. Suddenly however it happened, he landed on his back after falling down an old elevator shaft. Two days in the dark the fluid swelled around his spine. By the time he was found the damage was done. The upper part of Eric moves, the bottom? Nothing!

ANGER….Dear God the anger he had. I kept in contact with Eric off and on the past few years. He hated God, then he wanted to come to church. He would hate God again…then want to come to church. I never blamed Eric for his outbursts of anger. I have had my own so I did understand yet I knew there had to be more to him then Anger and Drugs!

I lost contact with him for almost a year then one day he called me. He and his girlfriend had no food. Could we help? So much has happened since that day. Suddenly Eric became a part of my every day!

He contracted HIV over the years…has staph infections on his body the size of a softball or larger which he cannot feel, THANK God! In order to do anything it takes him a good 10 minutes to get from bed to wheelchair because of the bags (yes more than one) he has to carry with him to collect his body fluids. He has had full-blown AIDS lately because he refused his medication to help his body fight infections.

One day this week however he mentions to us that Donna called (Not his moms real name) He was upset because once again she’s been released from prison and called to shower him with “I love you’s” and “I want to come see you’s.” She too has HIV and asked him if he was taking his medication because she is. In Eric’s snotty fashion he told her that he was not! She blew a gasket and asked him why not… Eric I do not believe had an answer.

Wed. when we saw Eric he informed us that he went back on his medication. I don’t think he hates his mom as much as he would like to believe. I honestly feel she and her words were the reason that Eric is going to give the medication another try. Which brought us to the afternoon with Eric grabbing the trash can… He will suffer with nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting for about a month or possibly two until his body accepts these very strong HIV meds.

Is Eric being punished? Absolutely NOT!!!! But how do I convince him of that? He became upset with me the day he was feeling so bad because I helped him pour a can of coke on ice. He snapped at me and it was about the third time he snapped at me and this time I snapped back as I pulled the coke can to my chest! I very firmly told him…”You have to learn to be loved!” I was startled by my own statement and I thought “God? That had to be you… are you going to use my stubbornness to teach Eric how to truly be loved? He understands that I care. He get’s it that we are there to help and be his friend…but are you going to use the compassion you have placed inside of me and teach me that he will smack at this compassion and he will fight it the only way he knows how but if I keep pressing in this same compassion that only comes from you will break Eric and teach him something he never ever learned…How to be loved…” I got it!

I do not claim to have all answers but if I am serving a God that gives AIDS, staph infections, paralysis  to a very young man then I do not want to serve that God… But if I serve a God that takes situations that this fallen world has and creates. Takes them and turns them around like He has so many of my own…THAT Is My God! IF God punishes like Eric thinks???? I would be dead! I must teach him with the help of God…How to be loved. Until then? He will never understand God. He will never KNOW GOD!!!! 

The little boy from the Georgia red clay roads in the tiny town of Waverly Hall that lost so much too soon…will die one day knowing love! I promise.

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2 Responses to “Can We Understand Just a Little More?”

  1. I remember when Eric fell down that shaft. I think it was about the time we came to see you three summers ago. He’s come a long way, even though he doesn’t realize it. And God isn’t punishing him. My God doesn’t punish-he finds ways to help those who need it. People like you, Jaye, are God’s hands on earth. One day, Eric will discover that God cares about him and that you’re just there to do what God wants you to do. Bless you both.

  2. I’ve been catching up on all of your adventures since I last got on face book…I must say I LOVE reading what you write! I really pray that Eric gets how much you love and care for him and I am so glad you let God guide your words and hands! By the way…..he IS a good looking young man…what a tragic life he’s lived but I do believe that in the end, when God sends his Angels to bring Eric home that he will truly understand what LOVE really is and his soul will be at peace! One of the reasons I got back on here for a bit was to catch up on how Eric was doing so I am really glad to hear he’s back on his meds….maybe he’s still here to teach others how to show compassion etc……I mean really….you have to have a heart of stone to NOT feel for this guy and so many others that you speak of from time to time!!! I wish I could be by your side helping but at the moment I am in my own struggle with my Autistic son…it’s a long story! I may share at some point but for now this is my own silent battle and his torment. Someday…


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