John in 1993
Today while taking a nap, I dreamed about my friend John. It was a silly dream, not worth repeating (as if anyone is ever interested in someone else’s dreams anyway), but it did remind me that John would have turned 41 on October 5.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, in October of 1996, Tom, our friend Amy (Rex’s first mom!), and I were in Washington, D.C., volunteering for what would be the last display in its entirety of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. I could write a book about those cold, amazing days in our capital, but I won’t do it here.
A brief history.
On October 11, 1987, the Quilt included 1,920 panels and was displayed for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The Quilt returned to Washington, D.C. in October of 1988, when 8,288 panels were displayed on the Ellipse in front of the White House. The entire Quilt was again displayed on the National Mall in 1992 and 1996, when it contained approximately 37,440 individual panels.
Five panels that I’d made with the help of my mother and Tom, as well as my friends Amy, Lynne, Lisa, Vicki, Nora, Shawn, and Shelley, were among those 37,440.
After we returned from Washington, John and James were over for a visit. We looked at photos, but John didn’t really want to talk that much about the Quilt. One of my panels was for John’s former boyfriend, Jeff. However John may have grieved the loss of Jeff, he was looking forward to his future with James in that October when he turned 31.
None of us had the slightest inkling that two months later, John would be dead. What had seemed an early diagnosis of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, and the promise of the new protease inhibitors, all happened just a little too late to save him.
I know a lot of people don’t like autumn. The days get shorter. The weather turns cold. The falling leaves remind us of loss and decay. I don’t know why I love this season so much. But overall, I’d rather think of all the friends’ and family’s birthdays I celebrate during autumn, all the good people who’ve been part of my life, and all the ways that dark times are always, always followed by rebirth in the spring, new friendships, renewed hope, and a planet that has so much to teach us if we only pay attention to its cycles.
From the NAMES Project Foundation web site:
Funds Raised by the Quilt for Direct Services for People with AIDS: over $3,250,000 (U.S.)
Number of Visitors to the Quilt: 15,200,000
Number of 12’x12′ Sections of The Quilt: 5,748
Number of Panels in the Quilt: approximately 46,000
Number of Names on the Quilt: More than 83,900 (The names on the Quilt represent approximately 17.5% of all U.S. AIDS deaths.)
Size : 1,293,300 square feet (the equivalent of 275 NCAA basketball courts with walkway, 185 courts without walkway)
Miles of Fabric: 52.25 miles long (if all 3’x6′ panels were laid end to end)
Total Weight: More than 54 tons
NAMES Project Chapters: 20
International Affiliates: 43
Amy, Becky, Tom in 1996