Tim Barbo was born in 1959 and died from an AIDS-related illness in 1986. His mother, Beverly, said she knew her son was homosexual when he was 4 years old. It would take him 13 more years to come to terms with his sexuality before coming out of the closet.
Now Beverly Barbo is on the national lecture circuit, trying to convince people that they should be more compassionate toward homosexuals and AIDS victims.She was in Ogden Thursday to talk to the clergy and medical professionals at St. Benedict's Hospital and then on to Weber State University to give another speech on her experiences with AIDS and the death of her son. On Friday, she traveled to Salt Lake City to conduct similar work-shops.
Sponsored by LARC - Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches, the workshops were important to the people of Utah so they could better understand just what the mother went through, said the Rev. Steve Wigdahl.
"I'm really encouraged by her being in Utah," said Wigdahl. "Beverly's story brings great hope to the church."
The Rev. Wigdahl, pastor at the Ascension Lutheran Church in Ogden, said he believes Barbo's messages surrounding her son's sexuality and AIDS-related death are "very powerful in affecting people's lives."
The Rev. Wigdahl said that he, too, has to question his own morals and he has come to the conclusion that Jesus would be loving, compassionate and forgiving with AIDS victims.
"There's grace and forgiveness in a loving and compassionate God," he said. "That's where I want to be."
In a personal interview, Barbo said she spent the last six months of her son's life with him before she had to bury him.
Her voice shaking and tears brimming, Barbo said she felt the people in her Baptist congregation failed to understand or give her the needed support when they learned that her son was homosexual and had AIDS.
The Lindsborg, Kan., woman said all she is now trying to do is open people's eyes to the fact that victims and their families need support to get through the horrible illness and death.
"Good Christian families don't have these problems," said Barbo concerning how people in her congregation felt. "The congregation didn't want to talk about it. They didn't want me to talk about it. I wasn't suppose to grieve for my son as much because of who he was."
Author of "The Walking Wounded," a story about Tim's illness and death and then the death of his partner, Barbo said most people in her church prayed for her son because they believed he was dying from cancer. After his death, she said she finally told other members in her church the truth.
"There was no great outpouring of sympathy," she said.
When Tim died in Los Angeles, Barbo said she decided to have a memorial service in Minnesota where her son was raised. She said she wanted to have the service in a church but moved it to a funeral home when the pastor at the church refused to let her discuss the circumstances surrounding her son's death.
She invited her friends from two churches to attend, but no one showed up. "Nobody wants to talk about it," she explained.
Barbo, the mother of another son and a daughter, said she still wants to talk about Tim, even four years after he died, to expose people's fears and prejudices against AIDS in an attempt to make them understand they need to learn compassion.
"We're all in this human condition together," she continued. "We have to love and support our gay children. The greatest commandment is love."
Barbo said children should get a good education in grade school about homosexuality so those who are gay won't feel isolated. She said small children, when they learn they are homosexual, feel like God doesn't love them and neither does Mom or Dad.
"I'm not trying to change people's minds about homosexuality," she added. "I just hope my story opens their hearts."