In my lifetime, no one saw my true colors more than my friend, Scott Galuteria. We lived through the toughest times together, navigating our way through the HIV/AIDS crisis as young gay men. Scott and I spent much of our time ministering to friends and loved ones who were dying, many without the support of their families. Miraculously, we always balanced each other out — when I was feeling down, he would lift me up, and vice versa.
Scott was never afraid of confronting life — and the truth — with unapologetic courage, optimism, and panache. When I wondered if I should enter my first drag pageant, it was Scott who took me shopping, styled me up and cheered me on all the way (I was first runner up). And when I considered making a career change from corporate to community work, Scott helped me with my resume, picked out my clothes, and coached me with my interview (I got the job).
There was nothing we wouldn’t do for each other, and that was proven when we confronted the most sobering truth of all — Scott had AIDS, and he was going to die.
As his illness progressed, I became a fierce advocate, searching out any treatment that might prolong his life until we found a cure. At the same time, I took on all of the daily tasks of caring for my best friend.
On Valentine’s Day 1994, Scott was at St. Francis Hospital. We sent our partners home and spent the night together, just the two of us. Although we didn’t name it, we understood that this night would be our last. As Scott drifted in and out of consciousness, he showered me with blessings -
- “You are worthy of all good things.”
- “You are going to live the most amazing life, because my destiny is tied with yours.”
- “Never stop dancing. Especially when you’re old and you don’t think you can do it anymore.”
- “Don’t ever be afraid to let your true colors shine through.”
- “Trust your body. Trust your spirit. And get out of your head. You will have everything you need.”
- “If you ever need me, just look around. I’ll be right there.”
These blessings have sustained my journey for the past 29 years, especially when shadows of self-doubt confront me. These past few months, the shadows have pulled close, as I wonder whether I have reached too far in my wish to change the world, to continue dancing, to publish my book, and to be the perfect partner, parent, child, sibling, and friend.
Not knowing what else to do, I took all of my shadows, and went to Kaneohe Memorial Park to visit Scott.
I sat on the ground next to Scott’s gravesite for over an hour, ruminating on versions of “Who am I kidding? People can totally see me for the imposter that I am. Everybody knows I’m in over my head, and I am a complete failure.”
I kept looking for some sort of acknowledgement from Scott — a rainbow, a gust of wind, even a passing pigeon. Nothing. Had Scott drifted? Perhaps I had ignored him for too long or pushed him away (the shadow speaks again).
I got up and walked through the gate toward my car. As I turned around to say one last goodbye, I saw these words inscribed above his niche -
And there he was, saying, “Darling, I’ve been here the whole time! All you had to do look up.”
As I drove home, I reflected on Scott’s blessings — you are worthy…my destiny is tied with yours…never stop dancing…let your true colors shine… — and especially,
“Trust your body. Trust your spirit. Get out of your head.
You will have everything you need.”
Since my visit with Scott,
- I made the final edits to my book on The Five Elements, and we are planning for a release this summer.
- My team and I re-imagined the Kahakulei Institute in bigger and bolder ways.
- I have been practicing hula every day and am experiencing progress, one kaholo at a time.
- My family and I are planning a 90th birthday vacation for my dad, fulfilling his long-held dream of going fishing in Alaska.
The wonder of it is that I didn’t need a new body or more brains. All I had to do was to change my attitude and find a different way to see and live my truth.
As for Scott? He’s been showing up, providing everything I need to keep going. In this past week alone, Scott has shown up through my elders, my hula brothers, colleagues, family and friends.
Scott reminded me that my Sanctuary of Truth consists of all of the amazing people who bless me with their gifts, their presence, support and care — every day in every way.
His message was not only about trusting my own body and spirit; it was about trusting the body and spirit of my community — which includes each of you. With you at my side, I can drive my shadows away, and let my true colors shine through.
Questions for Reflection and Consideration
- What truths are you carrying about yourself and the world? How are they serving you, or not?
- Who are the people who comprise your Sanctuary of Truth? Think about your biggest cheerleader, and don’t discount yourself.
- How might you engage them to let your true colors shine through?