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Issue 08 – Christmas 2021


Torpedo for My Heart

On his brother and the infant Jesus.


Recently I marked thirty years since my elder brother Mark’s death. He died of A.I.D.S., or, more precisely, from the effects of an experimental treatment for A.I.D.S. He died alone, having dragged himself to the hospital from his apartment near Sunset Boulevard, unable to bear the side effects of his medication. He took the bus. Anyone with the least knowledge of life in Los Angeles knows what a long, lonely task that must have been late at night. His heart stopped in the early hours of a September night in the Nineties.

My father called me that day and sobbed. We had only seen Mark two weeks before, at a solemn procession outside my abbey’s church for Our Lady’s birthday. He was very sick: emaciated, weak, and without appetite. But he tried to put on a good face. Some of my confreres greeted us, but sheer exhaustion prevented Mark from staying long. He and my father, who had brought him, had to excuse themselves. Mark was not as I would like to remember him, with sunken eyes, twig-like limbs, and ill-fitting clothes. I am ashamed to say that at the time I was embarrassed. I didn’t have the strength to endure what I imagined others must be thinking. My inner resources were limited by an anxiety about appearances. His gentle and customary teasing of me—even as he felt so ill—eased my not entirely conscious concern for how his presence was being perceived. I was relieved to hug him goodbye. It was the last time I saw him alive.

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About the author

Frederick Sandefur

Frederick Sandefur is the pseudonym of a religious priest. This piece originally appeared in the Christmas 2021 issue of The Lamp magazine.