Posts Tagged ‘AIDS’

St. Louis Effort for AIDS Picnic in Forest Park

July 13, 2010

You really did make a difference, you know. St. Louis Effort for AIDS has come so far in 25 years. From its beginning, just a few people meeting together in an apartment, to being a major HIV-AIDS service organization, recognized with official funding and grants, but more importantly, by the lives it touched, and touches still. Dining Out for Life is an annual event, often copied, never equaled.
You would have loved it, Jerry. We had a picnic at the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park to celebrate 25 years of helping hands, 25 years of St. Louis Effort for AIDS. We were all together, listening to Fruit Jam play light jazz, eating a catered lunch, feeling the summer breezes, clients and case workers and executive directors. And you were there, too. They had some Names Quilt Panels laid out. Not the one I made for you, but other people who passed on after complications from HIV-AIDS. Strangers came up and had a look, to see what was going on – so there was educational value, and I know that was always so near and dear to your heart.
It was a nice Sunday afternoon in Forest Park, seeing old friends, getting caught up. Missing other friends, like you, like Dana, Gil, and Jef, and so many dear people I met at the Sharing Center. Those Friday night socials had an impact on me, my daughter, her friends. We were volunteers, but we received more than we gave. You taught us to honor life, no matter what the circumstances, because it is short and dear and we only get one chance. You preached keeping a sense of humor, even though you were infected, lonely, poor – and you practiced what you preached. We laughed so much then. Today’s tears are the price of those good times we shared – they are worth the cost.
Your physical body is gone, but your spirit is still with us, teaching, training, leading, guiding, encouraging, helping still. I hear your voice in the crowd’s conversations. I hear your laughter in the wind. Your love is in my heart, and your hope is in my hands.

i remember…

May 7, 2008

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      Only a name.  Only a name and a piece of cloth.  Only a name and a piece of cloth to remember someone who lived and loved, someone who died of HIV-AIDS.

            This is the second time I will view a Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibit.  I take a deep breath and begin the slow walk around the huge gymnasium.  Bright panels of leather and lame’, denim and sequins, hand-blocked letters remind me that persons with AIDS are more than Center for Disease Control statistics:  each one has a name and a personality and someone who will miss them.

            I recognize Ryan White’s name, but the panel that strikes me most displays simple yellow letters on black felt.  It says, “My name is Duane.  I was born in 1964.  I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987.  By the time you read this, I will be dead.”

            A square of canvas and markers are provided so viewers can sign a quilt panel.  I see the name of someone I knew, Helena Henry Hatch, a fellow volunteer.  I went to her funeral.  Always dedicated to education and prevention, Helena requested that condoms be distributed for free after her funeral service. 

I write, “You teach me to honor the present.”

          Someone else has written, “Love is never wrong,” and “Love is not in vain.”

            My friend Jerry says hello and shows me the panel he sewed for his buddy Larry.  I give Jerry a hug and tell him I love him.  Jerry is caring, creative, talented, intelligent, he knew Janis Joplin during the original Summer of Love, and he is HIV +.  I don’t want to lose Jerry, too.  Ever the caregiver, he hands me a tissue.

            I tell Jerry, “You will always be more than just a number, just a name on a piece of cloth.”

            He kisses my forehead and thanks me for coming to honor his friends.

 

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AUTHOR’S NOTE:

I wrote this piece about 15 years ago.  Jerry died in 1999.  I made his panel for the Names memorial quilt.

Kerry