Today, December 1, marks World AIDS Day. A week ago today, on November 24, was the 30th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death, due to AIDS-related complications. 

The Queen lead singer was 45-years-old when he passed away. Many celebrities have since paid tribute to the esteemed singer, including fellow rock star and friend, Sir Elton John.

Freddie Kept His Diagnosis A Secret

Elton mentioned Freddie’s final days in his 2013 book Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS.

“I’d seen what the disease had done to so many of my other friends,” Elton wrote. “I knew exactly what it was going to do to Freddie. As did he. He knew death, agonising death, was coming.” 

The Bohemian Rhapsody singer-songwriter was diagnosed with HIV in 1987, although he kept it a secret from both his closest friends and fans for as long as possible. 

Elton was left “devastated” when he discovered his close friend had contracted the infection, but said Freddie was always “profoundly generous” and “truly lived for others” right up until he died. 

According to Elton, the flamboyant showman continued to perform and was determined to not lose his vivaciousness, despite his rapidly declining health. 

The Christmas Gift

On Christmas Day in 1991, following Freddie’s death, the Candle in the Wind singer was greeted by a friend at his front door with a present wrapped in a pillowcase. 

To his surprise, Freddie had left a gift for him – a painting by British impressionist artist, Henry Scott Tuke, whose works Elton had been collecting. Tuke (1858-1929), a painter in the Impressionist style, is well known for his paintings of nude boys and young men.

“Here was this beautiful man, dying from AIDS, and in his final days, he had somehow managed to find me a lovely Christmas present,” Elton recalled. 

He found a note with the present. It was addressed to him with his drag name, “Sharon” and signed off from “Melina”, Freddie’s drag name. They had given each other those nicknames many years prior. 

“Dear Sharon, I thought you’d like this. Love, Melina,” the letter read. “Happy Christmas.”

“I was overcome, 44-years-old at the time, crying like a child,” Elton recollected.

Elton Credited Freddie With Saving His Life

In another interview with David Williams in 2019, Elton said he still had the painting and the pillow case. “It was really moving. He was dying and he still thought of his friends and he bought me this. I still have it on it’s easel and I still have the pillowcase next to my bed. That is the kind of person he was. He was so so full of love and life. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone quite like that.”

Elton has previously credited Freddie as one of his friends who saved his life at the height of his problems with drugs. Elton had revealed that Freddie had begged him to go into rehab.

“There’s nobody like Freddie. He was larger than life. So funny, so gifted. So talented in what he wanted to do in his videos. Using ballet dancing. He had such an incredible mind and was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and was so wonderful to spend time with,” Elton had said in the 2019 interview.


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