Published On: Wed, Dec 4th, 2019

Alison and Kim

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Had a private tour of the cemetery the other day with an interesting, articulate senior that mentioned early on she outlived a child but I didn’t press the issue.  On this tour, in particular, folks tend to volunteer information about how death has impacted them.

The next morning I learned she was Alison Gertz’ mother.  Back when my children were little I led a care team carrying for the dying and Alison was a Manhattan socialite in the news as a rich, well-educated, young woman with AIDs.  Hardly a profile case at the time.  Alison devoted her energies to speaking to high schoolers on AIDs prevention putting an entirely new face on the disease.  A TV movie starring Molly Ringwald came out in the early 1990s a few months before Alison’s death.

Alison was the polar opposite of another news-worthy gal, Kimberly Bergalis, from Florida.  Kimberly was the first to get the disease from a dental visit, helping to institute required gloves for oral care.  (I know, hard to imagine there was ever a time dentists didn’t wear gloves but as a child I can still recall Dr. Schlotsky’s fat, furry fingers in my mouth.)

Kimberly had a different approach in the media and was presented as fairly angry as she got the disease though, as a virgin, she had done nothing to be punished for.  I felt sorry for her as no one should die angry.  Plus I found her logic flawed.  I feel no one gets a terminal illness, or a paper cut, as a punishment.  Plus if we all received what we deserved, or was fair, I’m sure absolutely no one would be happy.

Turns out the pal that referred Alison’s Mom had been her pal for half a century and it was her husband that was Alison physician keeping her alive for seven years.  I was gob smacked, since none of the clients, male or female, my care team helped in North Carolina ever lived even half that long until the pharmaceutical industry caught up.

Again, a huge upside to spending your retirement days immersed in Mexican history and culture is you never know who you are going to run into.   Today it was two of the most interesting young women of the last century with vastly different approaches to life, and death.

by Joseph Toone



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