(This is a repeat of the show I did last year for World AIDS Day. I have nothing to add but more tears.)
December 1st is the day to honor the memory of all the people we have lost to AIDS and say a prayer in our hearts for those living HIV & AIDS. The world has lost so many men, women, and children to this horrific disease.
This is the 19th World AIDS Day. I remember attending a meeting to organize a remembrance 19 years ago in an apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina. If anyone had told me I would still be attending or helping with World AIDS Day events 19 years later, I would have called them a liar but here I am. I refuse to rant or rave about the stupidity that has caused this disease to continue and worsen for so many years. Today is not the day for that. However, I will share some stories from my life.
I have lost over 1,000 people I call friend to this disease. I will not list all the names but they are burned into my heart and soul. I will tell you about a few special people who touched my life, my heart and my soul.
The first person I lost to AIDS was David Pendergras. He was one of the most beautiful men I have ever met. I had a huge crush on David that finally became one of the best friendships I ever had. David was the brother my brother could never be to me. We would spend hours talking about everything from our latest boyfriends, clothes, music, movies, books, plays, and even family. It was nothing for us to sit up all night talking, laughing and watching old movies. I still miss his smile and wacked out sense of humor. One time when we were out shopping with my Mom, David screams from across the store "Would you come on Miss Thing. We are ready to go." I was mortified. We were in Raleigh, North Carolina and I had only come out to my mom the previous year. To my surprise, my mom laughed and hugged David. I think he actually helped her understand me and what it meant to be a gay male. Neither David nor I were nelly in anyway but did love to cut up once in awhile. I still talk to David and tell him my dreams, fears, and aspirations and he is still listening and cracking jokes. David, I love you and I miss you.
In July of 1999, I lost two incredible people in 10 days time. Keith Mcelhenny had been a friend for 8 years. I had met him and his lover Carl when I was dating a mutual friend and bartending part time at a country western bar in San Francisco. Keith was one of the gentlest souls I have ever known. He was an artist, a writer, a furniture builder and designer. Keith and I would get lost in the bookstores while our respective lovers would fuss and complain. I loved attending plays, movies and concerts with Keith & Carl and talking about them afterwards. For many years, any holiday was spent either at their home or with them at my home. Dinner parties were a common occurrence and I always knew the food would be wonderful and would help with my own contributions. The last two times I ever attended church were for Keith. He was inducted as a deacon to the MCC church he and Carl belonged to and he asked me to attend. Unknown to me, I was asked to participate in the lying on of hands part of the ceremony. I tried to refuse as I am not a practicing church member of any kind and he and the minister said I had a Christian heart and the service would not be complete without me. The next time I attended was for his memorial service. I had promised Keith in the hospital that I would cater his memorial to make sure it was nice and not just thrown together. Keith's memorial was delayed for several days since his Minister and the majority of the congregation of the church was at an MCC World Conference. I was honored to do this for him and still miss him terribly. He will always hold a special place in my heart and mind.
The other person I lost that awful July was my Lover Don. What can I say about Don? He was light of my world. Here was the one man that was special enough for me to date, live with and love more than 6 months. He was someone I wanted to grow old with and laugh about our past blunders, but that was not to be. When I met Don, he had been HIV positive for 15 years. That did not mean a thing to me. I was in love from the first night we spoke. I am not saying everything was perfect. No relationship is. We were total opposites in almost everything. He loved bloody action movies and gambling. I am a comedy or chick flick guy. In his entire life, he had never seen a play, a classical concert or even a jazz concert. He laughingly said that the only things we had in common were that we were both gay, loved dogs, and loved each other. He had this sleepy little smile that could melt my heart and make me forget any little dispute. He would plan special occasions for me that would simply blow my mind. He was probably one of the most romantic men I have ever met. It was nothing for him to plan a special night on the town or an incredible dinner at home with flowers and candles all over the house. He made me feel special and unique. Don died on the Thursday before Keith's memorial. He died at our home with our two dogs, his cat and me. One week after Keith's memorial, I threw a party for Don. I cooked all of his favorite treats and invited his friends and mine. There was a poker table set up in one room, music and conversation in the living room. I decorated the house with every type of flower I knew he loved.
Don will always be a part of me. He touched my heart & soul as no other human being ever has. I think of him always and still talk to him and listen for his answers. He occupies my dreams when I am troubled and has even helped me find solutions. I wish anyone in love 10 years for every 6 months that Don and I had together. It was the best 5.5 years of my life.
Take some time today to remember the loved ones you have lost and to say a kind word to those you know who are living with HIV and AIDS. Wear a Red Ribbon and explain the significance to all that ask.