Ruth is the altruistic woman who cared for gay men dying with AIDS in the 1980s in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. It started when she was at University Hospital visiting a friend who had cancer. At the time she was 25 years old with a young family.
One day she saw a door to a patient’s room with a big red bag over it. Inside was a gay man dying of AIDS. Nobody came to visit him. He was asking for his mother. So Burks called his mother. His mother told Burks that being gay had brought shame on the family. His family didn’t want to know. Even the healthcare staff treated him as cursed. So Burks cared for him. She visited him in hospital and when he finally passed away she buried him.
Burks then went on to give this end-of-life care to hundreds of gay men and to bury at least three dozen herself. Luckily for Burks, her mother had bought 262 plots in a graveyard when she was younger due to a colossal family argument. This meant that Burks has plenty of space for the burials.
From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of those gay men, I just want to say: Thank you Ruth Cocker Burks. Nobody deserves to die alone, afraid and without care or love.
Burks believes that a higher power led her to her destiny of caring for these gay men dying with AIDS. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But what I do know is that Burks’ actions represents the very best aspects of humanity: care, compassion, kindness and love.
Burks is an inspirational woman and I wish we could all be more altruistic, meaning that we care for the well-being of others more.
The blog post above is a shortened paraphrase of Meet the Woman Who Cared for Hundreds of Abandoned Gay Men Dying of AIDS from Out Magazine’s online website.