I had known about his condition for more than three years, but his HIV status changed to full-blown AIDS in the summer of 1995. The brain tumor caused him to have a small stroke. He was living and working in Washington, D.C. at the time, and I immediately sought a leave of absence and flew there from my home in St. Louis.
When I got to see Kevin, he was distraught and wanted to know why he should go on living. I responded that only God knows when it is time for us to leave this earth, and that I would be there for him through his illness. His friends thought he should go into a nursing home, but I said no--he should come back to St. Louis with me.
I set about moving his things, going to the grocery store each day to get boxes, then packing them and sending them via UPS to my home. We both wondered when and how his furniture could be moved. But a good friend of his--a young lawyer named Donnell Smith--was living in D.C. at the same time and miraculously was getting ready to move to St. Louis. He offered to place Kevin's furniture on his moving truck and send it to my apartment. God had heard our prayers.
Once Kevin was back home, we starting looking for doctors, and found a fantastic radiologist at Washington University. Between his doctor’s help and my belief in following a firm nutrition plan to maintain health, he was soon walking with the aid of a cane. His good spirits came back, and he was able to drive his beloved Jeep.
Kevin had always been a kind and happy child, and a committed Christian. At one time he even thought of becoming a preacher. Eventually he paid his own way through college (we were fairly poor when he was growing up) and became a pharmacist. As a pharmacist he worked for a program that helped pharmacies pay for prescriptions for those could not afford them. That's just the kind of person he was.
Once he moved back to St. Louis, Kevin kept up with his friends in D.C. to make sure the pharmacy program continued. His good health lasted until July of 1996, but after his 29th birthday, it declined rapidly.
When Kevin died, I was devastated, and each day was a struggle for me, whether I was at work or at home. Two of my friends, Gloria Bratkowski and her husband, Tom, were working on a project to increase the world’s butterfly population. They had given me some monarch butterfly caterpillars as part of this project. Gloria told me what to feed them, which I dutifully went about doing. It was a distraction from my grief.
The caterpillars eventually spun their cocoons, and I watched as they turned dark brown and shriveled. In my sorrow, I thought that I had not fed them enough and that the cocoons would never open.
There on the shelf, inside the glass bottle that held the caterpillars, I saw the cocoons begin to open. The beautiful monarchs started unfolding before me.
My heart was filled with joy as I realized what God was showing me: that even though we die in this human life, we are reborn like butterflies to an infinitely more beautiful state. Our bodies simply encase this beauty. Our souls are set free upon death to the wonder of heaven--if we simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and his promise of life everlasting.
Although I was still sad after this event, I was at peace with God's promise of everlasting life through the lesson of the monarch butterflies.