"Reflections on the Beanster." (11/1991)

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"Reflections on the Beanster." (11/1991)




Belmont, NC




House of Mercy Archive: Binder 1 (1990-1999)


A Reflection on "The Beanster"

I had not known Gene for very long. I did not know Gene as well as some for I had not know Gene for the 47 years he had lived prior to my meeting him. But I did know Gene through what he shared with me and what he lived each day during the three months he joined us at the HOUSE OF MERCY.

Gene helped me to understand that AIDS affects people. Not just homosexuals; not only IV drug users, but each of us from a variety of walks of life. He helped me to believe in the ability of each person to take control of his/her life and make changes. He reminded me of the importance of forgiving oneself and accepting yourself for who you are--a combination of past and present. And, Gene helped me appreciate the beauty of life, found only in the simple things like hugs, a warm sunny day and a cold glass of your favorite Kool-Aid with plenty of ice.

Gene was a man of great strength and courage; a man of quick wit and charming expressions; a man of deep thought and intelligent conversation. Caring, loving, gentle, humble and gracious are words that come to mind in thinking about Gene.
Through Gene's example it has become quite clear to me that we each have been given life for a very specific reason and that we each have very specific lessons to learn. Gene has helped me realize that I still need to learn some lessons. These lessons Gene taught me I refer to as lessons of the heart because that's where the growth has occurred.

I am quite certain Gene is unaware of the lessons he has helped me learn because they were not directly spoken but rather observations from the example Gene provided in the life he lived. First, that one needs to accept oneself and like who one is. I don't believe Gene was ever understood for who he was by his family. He did, however, come to understand himself and accept himself. He has taught me that while my past is a part of who I am, it is no longer my total reality and I need to move on. Through his example, I have come to understand that who I am is entirely dependent on me and that my worth is only determined by me. As Gene stated about himself," who I was can't interfere with who I am now if I accept myself and all the mistakes I made."

Second, that God has ownership in all things and that one's life journey should be entrusted into his hands. How I live my life is connected with and related to my experience of knowing God. I sometimes forget that I must cooperate with God in letting go of the things that cloud my vision and burden my hearts love so that God's gifts and his will may enter my life. Gene has taught me the importance of silence, prayer and trust in God. The simplicity and strength of his faith made him a channel of God's love in my life.

And, third, that strength is found within oneself. Gene has helped me to understand that I am stronger than I ever thought I was; that I possess the determination, confidence and ability to do anything I want to do. Self-reliance tempered with just enough dependence on others is a necessary balance that Gene exhibited each day. He taught me to stop questioning the beliefs and convictions I hold so dear just because others may question. He taught me that who I am is the greatest asset and that my strength will come from knowing who I am.
In all of these lessons of the heart that I have come to realize during my time with Gene, I have also discovered the value of the love and friendship we shared during the three months I had the privilege of living with Gene. That gift will lead me forward as well as free my heart to love unconditionally again without fear of loss.

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Gene Shope obituary (11/16/1991). Charlotte Observer Newspaper
"AIDS toll comes home with first Mercy death," Gaston Gazette (11/16/1991) Newspaper