Updated: Dec 30, 2021
This year on World AIDS Day we received a message from Paul and Sandi with a special request. Jeff Mowat, who was Sandi's brother and Paul's friend, had been cared for by Sunshine House (then called Kali-Shiva) before he died of AIDS in 1993. They asked if they could submit a tribute to Jeff to be posted on our website. We are pleased to honour their request, and remember a bright light whose memory shines on today.
More than 36 million people have died of AIDS since the disease was first identified in 1981. They were cherished by loved ones who mourned their untimely passing. This tribute is paid to one such man.
Jeffrey Mowat died of AIDS-related causes at the St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg on 29 October 1993, the day after his thirtieth birthday.
He grew up in Winnipeg surrounded by a loving family, his parents Roger and Lois, his elder sister Sandi, his elder brothers Brian and Michael (twins) and the family’s pets. He loved animals all his life; his cat Kitty was a much-loved companion in the last years of his life.
Jeff graduated from Vincent Massey Collegiate in 1981, with honours in Mathematics and English. He briefly studied at the University of Winnipeg. Later in his life he started an arts degree at the University of Toronto, though he did not finish it. He worked as a part-time model from his teenage years until late in his life, when illness prevented him from working. He loved travelling and travelled across Canada, the United States and Great Britain, making many friends on his travels.
Jeff was proudly, bravely, boldly gay. He was very romantic and longed for the perfect partner. He came out to his parents when he was eighteen. He left Winnipeg two years later, in 1983, because he encountered much prejudice against gay people in the city and wanted to live in Toronto, where there was a larger gay community. He was a strong supporter of gay organizations. All his adult life he fought prejudice against gay people.
In the last few years of his life he bravely fought HIV infection, which progressively turned into AIDS. He returned to Winnipeg to live so that he could have his family and friends around him. He was very grateful for the love he received from them, and for the assistance he received from volunteers from Sunshine House who cared for him in his apartment.
In his final years, inspired by the love and help he had received from all who cared for him, his faith in God returned. A few months before Jeff died, he talked about his spiritual reawakening in an address he gave to the congregation of his mother’s church, St. Peter’s Church in Winnipeg, and the congregation of his own church, the Unitarian Universalist Church, which had helped him to recover his faith in God. He loved the Unitarian Universalist Church because of its commitment to helping people. In his address he stated his belief that “love existing in the world is a sign of God.” Jeff believed that the love and compassion which HIV/AIDS had inspired in people was the work of God and was a blessing which gave some compensation for the terrible affliction of the disease. He concluded that, “The spirit of God is Love. He has gone to prepare a place for us – for all of us. And I believe that there will be a home there for me and for all AIDS victims. We AIDS sufferers are the lepers of the twentieth century, and if Christ were among us He would love us and heal us.”
Jeff believed in a life after death. In his address to the two congregations, he said that he would meet his loved ones again in Heaven. In his final, beautiful message to them, published a few months later in his obituary in the Winnipeg Free Press, he quoted Juliet’s remark to her lover Romeo in Shakespeare’s play, “Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.”
We hope and pray that as Jeff passed through the dark of death he saw before him the welcoming light of Heaven and that he is now healed there, held in the loving hands of God.
— Sandi and Paul
1 December 2021
World AIDS Day