Born 12th March 1949, died 22nd September 1986 aged 37
Hospital, more a prison than a safe haven
We were a happy, hard-working family with four sons, the three older boys were Barry’s, but I had been their ‘mother’ since Vince the oldest was five years old and the twins Tony and David two years old, they were our boys. Paul, our youngest, was born in 1983, just a little over three years before his father’s death. At the time we found out about Barry being infected with the HIV virus, the stigma attached to HIV was at the highest peak, with national newspapers daily carrying front page headlines referring to the infection as the ‘GAY PLAGUE’. AIDS was something that was not spoken of lightly. At work we were worried about informing our employers yet the need to take time off to attend hospital appointments made us both become deceitful. Friends and family with newly born children were fearful to allow us to visit them for fear of their new babies being infected with the virus. Barry in fact never met his niece who was born just weeks before he died for the same reason. Many previously good friends were lost to us at this time, when their friendship was really needed.
The last six months of Barry’s life were spent as an inpatient on a psychiatric ward at the London hospital, every attempt to have him cared for at a hospice came to nothing. In fact it appeared that the safety of others from the virus was more important than a dignified death for Barry, the ward was locked and felt more like a prison than a safe haven. Barry’s family were not given the chance to see Barry after his death, this fact caused a deep rift, which to a certain extent still exists to this day. I had only minutes with him before his body was bagged up and taken from the ward. For safety, I was told at the time.
Barry’s death ripped our happy family to pieces. Vince was 18, Tony and David 14 and Paul just three years old. I had never felt the need to legally adopt the older boys, never thinking that there would be a need, but upon Barry’s death it became clear that my life as I had known it would be no more.
Family interference resulted in Tony and David being placed in the care of the local authority, as I was not a blood relative, I had no say in what would eventually happen. The pain I feel now, trying to put these events into words, is unbearable. I returned to my native Wales with Paul and Vince to be supported by my family. The loss felt at that time cannot be expressed with ease, loss is not a big enough word to describe what happened to us all. Sons lost, brothers lost, grandsons lost, nephews lost. Feelings of anger and resentment at what had happened are still with me all these years later and have never been properly acknowledged.
In fact, the brothers were estranged for more than 12 years, and it is only very slowly since then, now that they are all adults with children of their own, relationships have recovered and developed to where they should always have been. We all missed out on many years, of marriages, birth of grandchildren, nephews, nieces, the loss of many memories that can never be replaced.
Nothing can be replaced, most of all a loving father and my husband.