I met her at a meeting probably eleven or twelve years ago. We instantly connected because of our shared status as HIV-positive people in recovery. I adopted the runt of a litter of kittens. Emma is with me to this day.
During a subsequent relapse Kim became pregnant but quickly came back to our fold determined to give birth to a healthy child. Many of us experienced the anticipation of new life as the months rolled along. Kim shared of her gratitude to be carrying a baby, clean and sober.
She knew the best option, to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, was a caesarean section. All was made ready at Women’s College Hospital and the time soon came for the big event.
Pictures in my mind have Kim and her partner at the top of the bed holding their little boy with godparents, grandmothers and friends all around awaiting their turn to hold him.
Fast forward several years. Kim, using again, gave up custody of her son to her now ex-partner. I saw her, I’m not sure how long ago, walking up Church Street with telltale saucer-shaped eyes. “Hey buddy”, she said looking into my eyes – knowing that I knew how she was. She didn’t stop to talk.
This past Friday night I arrived home to an email from a friend of Kim’s, her son’s godmother in fact. Kim had died of an overdose.
Can any of us say we are shocked? No. Angry at Kim? Sure. Yet we could see it coming. How sad that her own need to get high came before anything else – knowing, however difficult, that there was proven help available. (That’s a lament that is heard time and again, knowing that different circumstances might have had similar outcomes for us.)
My most vivid memories are of a Kim who was courageous in speaking out about her story of life on the streets, agitating for more research on how HIV impacts women differently, and of her effusive joy as a young expectant mother who was so grateful for her baby’s safe arrival. Those are the memories I would want to share with her beautiful ten-year old son. He’s experiencing enough darkness, probably more internally than otherwise, as Tuesday’s farewell approaches.