Tom and I drove to Salt Lake City for Thanksgiving of 2000. My brother, along with my nephew and his family, were there, as was our mother, and Debby flew in to spend the holiday with us as well. Margot went with us and experienced her first real snow. She wasn’t a fan, but since she saw David’s dog Bailey treating it like nothing special, she adjusted. Along with putting together a feast and watching lots of ball games on TV, we did some sewing.
I was hoping to finish my late friend Tim R’s AIDS Quilt panel before December 1.
So Mother worked on the panel.
And Debby worked on the panel.
Thanks to them, a lot of progress was made. It was a time of great bonding for us, and since Daniel’s son, Dave, who was seven at the time, was there, it was a chance to talk openly about some of the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS with a bright child to absorb information. Having endured with my late friends a time of silence about their illness and the challenges they faced, I know that honest discussion and education do more to help create a tolerant world, curtail the spread of the disease, and drive funding for better and more accessible health care for everyone.
When we returned to Houston after that trip, there was still work to be done.
But I wasn’t alone. Lynne worked on the panel, too.
And in a ceremony on World AIDS Day Eve in 2000, Tim’s parents, part of the support system that sustained him through his illness and made sure the last sounds he heard on earth included the laughter of his family at home around him, were able to give his panel to the NAMES Project.
Each year since 1992, I’ve done a World AIDS Day newsletter. At this point with all the resources available on the Internet, I’m not sure the information I provide is necessary. But what will never STOP being vital is that we remember the ones we lost. That we remind the world there were people here who were taken from us too soon. That we do everything we can to encourage people to be as safe as they can be to stop the transmission of the virus, to be tested so that they can get good healthcare quickly and not transmit the virus to anyone else, and to know that there is a world community who wants you to be here and healthy for a long, long time. You are needed. You matter.
For twenty-four years, World AIDS Day has been observed on December 1. The theme from 2011 to 2015 is Getting to Zero. I dream of that world with no new infections and no new AIDS deaths by 2015. I’ve seen amazing progress made since I first became involved with AIDS awareness and caregiving in 1990. I remember when so much of the struggle was just coping with bigotry, indifference, poverty, and fear. Those things have no place in the face of any disease, including AIDS.
With all the progress that’s been made, the largest group getting new infections is young adults and teens ages 13 to 29; sixty percent of them don’t know they’re infected. If you’re concerned about AIDS, be an advocate for testing. Be an advocate for accessible medical care. Be an advocate for compassion and outreach. There are so many organizations who can use your time, your voice, and your donations. Although I’m not doing my usual resource list, if there’s ever a time I can help any reader here find resources local to you, I will be happy to research information with you.
That Christmas after we all sewed on Tim’s panel, my mother sent me this ornament with a note about how we all worked together to honor Tim’s memory with our needles and thread. As you can see, a dog “altered” the ornament at some point in the intervening years. That’s okay. Just as with people, flaws become part of the story.
Thank you for reading here. I write in memory of Steve R, Don P, Jeff C, John M, Pete M, Tim R and all those loved and lost.