Today’s Story Corps segment from NPR provides that unusual blend of sweetness and horror.
Horror over the way we treat people we profess to love. Sweetness from the strangers who take our place.
It’s the story of Ruth Coker Burks, who has spent several decades caring for AIDS patients.
She became involved after visiting a friend at a Little Rock hospital where one of the state’s early AIDS patients was dying. “The nurses were drawing straws to see who would go in and check on him,” Coker Burks tells Wineland at StoryCorps in Hot Springs, Ark.
“And so I snuck into his room. And he wanted his mama. And so I marched myself out to the nurses’ station and I said, ‘Can we call his mother?’ And they go, ‘Honey, his mama’s not coming. He’s been here six weeks. Nobody’s coming.’
“And so I went back in and he looked up at me and he said, ‘Oh Mama, I knew you’d come.’ I stayed with him for 13 hours while he took his last breath. I called his mother and I told her that he had died and she said, ‘I’m not burying him.’ So I had him cremated and I brought him home.”
“And you buried them,” Wineland says. “When they died, when no one else would.”