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AIDS + Starcross


Sister Julie with TinaThe life and death of Tina was a major turning point in our lives. She was adopted at birth. Already sick from AIDS, her birth-mother, who died soon afterwards, had asked us to care for her baby. Sister Julie was present at Tina's birth and brought her home.

Tina ruled our family and spread love wherever she moved. She had a hard and painful life and died a few days before her third birthday but there is much more to Tina's story. Shortly after Tina's death Julie wrote this about her daughter:

"Tina was happy and sure of herself, cute and charming, a bright, whimsical pixie, who made every day delightful. She loved music and dancing. She was always ready for celebrations, which she called 'happies.' Nature fascinated Tina, especially birds and stars. She liked times of family prayer and being in the chapel.

"Tina was and is the daughter I always wanted. From the day of her birth I knew it. She was not some unfortunate baby I took care of. I received from her more than I gave. Tina played many roles in our family. For several years she was the cherished baby. Then when a new little one [Holly] arrived she became the concerned older sister. She took upon herself the task of interpreting the baby's wishes to the adults.

"She had her daddy [Toby] wrapped around her little finger. Whatever important issues he was handling would be dropped in a minute if Tina suggested going to feed the ducks or playing marbles.

"Tina was an authentic person who demanded respect from those around her. She would not be treated as a generic toddler, or even worse a generic patient. If anyone did not treat her properly it was 'Away, away!' and with an imperial flick of the wrist she'd banish them from her presence.

"And what a brave little trooper, especially in regard to walking. Physically, nothing came easy for Tina. However, the fact that her legs and feet didn't work without clumsy braces never slowed her down. She was determined and stubborn. She wanted to walk, and gave it all she had with great good humor. In fact, with absolute joy.

"Sometimes I'd catch a glimpse of a stranger watching her. They'd smile sympathetically as this cheerful little cherub trudged by. And I'd think to myself, if only you understood. This is not some poor crippled child to be pitied. This is a world-class athlete in training. She could win an Olympic gold medal for what she's doing here. And I'd feel so tremendously proud of her."

As her third spring unfolded she became weaker. When the medications would not handle the pain of the lesions she called for her big brother, David, to play his violin for her. It helped. All through Holy Week she hovered on the brink of death. A few days after Easter, as Julie was rocking her in their room on a sunny afternoon Tina's spirit went home to God - but we feel it returns from time-to-time. She still helps us remember what is important in our life.

Tina touched many people. To view the editorial Tina's "Legacy of Love" from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat of April 13, 1991 click here.

Tina "Arbles"Tina's "Arbles"

Sister Julie was Tina's mother, her friend, her caretaker in the long and painful months before she died. Julie was hardest hit. In Tina's death was all the deaths we had witnessed. It was as if an avalanche of sorrow had hit and was crushing Julie.

The next month Brother Toby and Sister Julie went to Romania. They came back by way of Italy. The hope was that this country, which Sister Julie loved, would help her heal. They were carrying with them some of Tina's marbles (which she called "arbles") to place as memorials in some of the sites they visited.

They visited Assisi. Sister Julie loved the piazza in front of Santa Chiara - St. Clare. It was decided to leave Tina's most beloved "arble" in a small opening in the outer wall of the church. There was a feeling of deep peace which they wanted to share with Sister Marti.
They walked across the piazza to a telephone booth and called Starcross. Marti had just returned from the doctor's and shared with them that Holly (who had been born and adopted in 1990) was now HIV negative! A child we thought would die would live a long life. It seemed a miracle. That spot in Assisi has become a place of pilgrimage for us.
Brother Toby recorded our life from 1989 to 1994 in Childsong Monksong: A Spiritual Journey (St. Martin's Press, 1994).

Please read on: Starcross in Africa >

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