"A Finished Life, The Goodbye and No Regrets Tour"
Not long ago I overheard a gay man remark that we seem to have forgotten about people with AIDS.
"A Finished Life: The Goodbye and No Regrets Tour," a documentary by Michelle Boyaner and Barbara Green, is here to jolt our memories.
The filmmakers followed Greg Gour, a 48 year old gay man with AIDS, as he drove across the country for one last farewell to his friends and loved ones.
Gour lived with HIV for 25 years. His partner and all their friends had long since died. When his doctor tells him that he needs to change his meds yet again, he says no. He's tired of the side effects, he has no fight left in him. Gour ends all treatment, quits his job, closes up his Los Angeles apartment, and drives to his mom's house in Pennsylvania to say goodbye. Along the way he stops at various locales to visit with old friends, siblings, and ex-boyfriends.
Gour isn't going to wait for the virus to destroy him. He'll go on for as long as he can. When he feels himself about to reach the terminal stage, he'll bow out quietly and gracefully, on his own terms.
"A Finished Life" is mesmerizing and difficult to watch. The film touches upon many Right to Die issues, yet it never preaches. It also reminds us that while HIV has become manageable for many, it can still kill. Gour showed tremendous strength and courage as he prepared for the inevitable.
He's filled with love, and wants everyone in his life to know how much he loves each of them.
There are many haunting moments: Gour leaves his beloved dog Cody at his sister's house in Kansas. As his tearful sister waves goodbye for the last time, Cody stares in confusion as her master drives off without her. An hour later, a State trooper stops to see if everything is OK – Gour is crying.
The ultimate heartbreak comes when Gour visits his Mom for the last time. She's an intense woman who raised her children in the church, until she saw how the church treated it's gay congregants. Mom is trying to be strong, trying to accept her son's decision, but it isn't easy for the 70-something year old woman to let go.
But Gour stands his ground. It's time to go. He doesn't want to lose the ability to care for himself, or to be a burden on others.
"I've lived a full life," he said.
Greg Gour, whose road trip ended in 2006, leaves behind a powerful legacy with "A Finished Life: The Goodbye and No Regrets Tour." He did everything he ever wanted to do. With grace, dignity, and humor, he exits stage left.
Gour's story can be found on Amazon.
On Dec. 1st, World AIDS Day, let us remember those who have left us, and those still here for whom the battle continues.