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7/25/97 Parents cherish 3 months with son dying from AIDS

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–It was July 28, 1995, and the Higgins family had just finished their daily devotion following the evening meal. This had been the normal routine over the last three months since their son, Mike, had moved home. That night Mike wanted to pray. And he did very articulately, his mother, Ruth Higgins, recalled.
But, in just a few minutes Mike became disoriented and attempted several times to pull out the catheter that helped keep him alive. He was dying of drug-related AIDS, and the much-dreaded climactic decline to death had begun.
Ruth Higgins sat up all night with her son to make sure he did not pull out his tubing and bleed to death. The next morning, the hospice nurse arrived with a shot of morphine for the pain and began bathing Mike’s ice-cold body in warm water.
Mike calmly asked, “Mom, are you there?”
“And I said, ‘Yes, I am,'” Ruth Higgins said. “Then we heard a gurgle and Mike stopped breathing. He died a peaceful death and he was ready to go.”
That was almost two years ago and the Higginses still feel the pain, but they also have been able to find the positive in their experience.
“I was up front about it from the start,” Ruth said. “I wanted everyone to know the truth and did not want to be involved in any type of gossip.”
Ruth’s husband, Summey, agreed people accept and deal with the truth better than possessing a suspecting and curious attitude. That is the way they dealt with their 41-year-old son as he came home to die May 1, 1995.
Summey believes their church family at Lakeside Baptist in Birmingham, Ala., was better able to minister because they knew all the details.
The church basically developed its own AIDS Care Team, Ruth Higgins said. “They came, they called, they sent cards and they brought food — time after time,” she said.
While the Higginses have been members of Lakeside 26 years, Mike had only attended during the family’s first year at the church. He was a senior in high school when they began attending Lakeside and moved off to attend Baylor University in Texas the next year.
It was during college that Mike’s life changed.
Mike was 3 months old when the Higginses adopted him. Mike was 2 when they adopted his sister, Linda. Both children grew up in the church. Mike and Linda were raised in a Christian home where Christian principles were both taught and practiced, Ruth said. Mike gave his life to the Lord at age 15, she added. He had been involved in Boy Scouts, youth choir, yearbook and the National Honor Society through his childhood and teenage years.
“We would have never believed that it (AIDS) could happen to our family,” Ruth said. But, because Mike got involved with the “wrong crowd” in college, he made some bad choices and wrong decisions, she said.
“He eventually dropped out of college to work and ‘find himself’,” Ruth said. He was deceptive at times and could convince anyone of anything, she noted, describing his personality as one that “could sell ice to an Eskimo.”
He was also married and divorced twice and had two children, his mother noted.
All of Mike’s bad choices and decisions brought many problems to his life, one of which was drugs and “needle-swapping,” Ruth recounted. The “needle-swapping” eventually led to his testing positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in 1987 while living in California.
As the Higginses suffered many heartaches through Mike’s rebellious years and then with his eight-year battle with HIV and AIDS, they relied upon their faith in the Lord for strength.
Believing the Lord expects parents to love their children unconditionally because he does the same for his children, the Higginses decided to bring Mike home during his final months. When they called to ask Mike to come home, Ruth noted her son seemed surprised at their offer because of the problems he had caused them through the years. Once he agreed to fly home, they prepared their lives emotionally and physically for the challenge ahead.
Members of the church also set up a hospital bed and other medical equipment in their home. Arriving at the Birmingham airport on crutches, it was only a few weeks before Mike was bedfast. He was placed on hospice in June 1995, which provided a much-needed support and care for Mike as well as the Higgins family.
“We believe these nurses are truly called by the Lord for this very special work and surely sent to us as ‘ministering angels,'” Ruth said.
Those three months spent with Mike were not gloomy times, she recalled. “We talked, laughed and reminisced,” she said. “Some of our most precious and cherished memories are of our special time together.”
Ruth said it was that devastating illness and heartbreaking situation that the Lord used to remold and renew Mike as well as his relationship with the Lord and with his family.

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  • Jennifer Davis Rash