Her Luminous ExampleLet us take courage from her memory and her luminous example.
I never met Debbi Hood Johnson in person. I encountered her through CAM, the Computerized AIDS Ministries BBS, and I spoke to her on the phone once or twice. I never met her, but I got to know her and love her through the kindness she showed others on the bulletin board.
She supported those in pain. She educated, through her article "I Wear a Red Ribbon" which has been reprinted throughout the world, and through personal appearances. For those who could learn compassion no other way, she provided a face for the scourge of AIDS.
When she became angry, Debbi approached her "opponent" in a spirit of redemption and reconciliation. By her manner and her sweetness of spirit, she showed that she did not look on her "opponent" as an enemy.
Debbi's strong Christian faith brought comfort to her. She called forth the best in others and, when necessary, challenged other Christians to live up to their faith. She was fond of Jesus' admonition in Matthew 25:34-40:
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we say you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me.' (NRSV)
Debbi Hood Johnson lived barely more than forty-two years. In the last three or four of those years, she blessed more people than many of us bless in a lifetime.
When she was killed in an auto accident on 24 February 1996, I know her Savior met her, smiling radiantly, put his arms around her, and said, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
I know, too, that she is reunited at last with her beloved husband, BJ, whose life was claimed by AIDS in 1993.
Debbi's light has gone out of the world. Let us take courage from her memory and her luminous example. Even in our grief, let us celebrate her having lived, rather than protest the loss. Let us celebrate her by letting our Light shine more brightly than ever.
24 February 1996