In a book excerpt, out singer Elton
John shares a story about receiving a special Christmas gift from
Freddie Mercury a month after his death from complications related to
In his 2013 book Love is the Cure:
On Life, Loss and the End of AIDS, John, 71, wrote that Mercury
shared with him that he had AIDS four years before his death.
“Freddie didn't announce publicly
that the had AIDS until the day before he died in 1991,” John
wrote. “Although he was flamboyant on stage – an electric
frontman on a par with Bowie and Jagger – he was an intensely
private man offstage. But Freddie told me he had AIDS soon after he
was diagnosed in 1987. I was devastated. I had seen what the disease
had done to so many of my other friends. I knew exactly what it was
going to do to Freddie. As did he. He knew death, agonizing death,
was coming. But Freddie was incredibly courageous. He kept up
appearances, he kept performing with Queen, and he kept being the
funny outrageous and profoundly generous person he had always been.”
“As Freddie deteriorated in the late
1980s and early '90s, it was almost too much to bear. It broke my
heart to see this absolute light unto the world ravaged by AIDS. By
the end, his body was covered with Kaposi's sarcoma lesions. He was
almost blind. He was too weak to even stand.”
“By all rights, Freddie should have
spent those final days concerned only with his own comfort. But that
wasn't who he was. He truly lived for others. Freddie had passed on
November 24, 1991, and weeks after the funeral, I was still grieving.
On Christmas Day, I learned that Freddie had left me one final
testament to his selflessness. I was moping about when a friend
showed up at my door and handed me something wrapped in a pillowcase.
I opened it up, and inside was a painting by one of my favorite
artists, the British painter Henry Scott Tuke. And there was a note
from Freddie. Years before, Freddie and I had developed pet names for
each other, our drag-queen alter egos. I was Sharon, and he was
Melina. Freddie's note read, 'Dear Sharon, I thought you'd like this.
Love, Melina. Happy Christmas.'”
“I was overcome, forty-four years old
at the time, crying like a child. Here was this beautiful man, dying
from AIDS, and in his final days, he had somehow managed to find me a
lovely Christmas present.”
“In death, he reminded me of what
made him so special in life,” he added.