Friday, December 01, 2006

Remembering the Lights

Today is World AIDS Day and I did not have a place to be. All day, I had the strange vague feeling that I was supposed to be somewhere. Unsettling, until late this evening, when I finally left my office and the relentless onslaught of e-mail I battled all day, and then, while I was walking to the parking deck, I got it. The lights of the cars under the bridge to the deck suddenly reminded me of the flickering candles of so many AIDS vigils and marches. And then I remembered that I was supposed to be somewhere like the National AIDS Memorial Grove, surrounded by others, to remember.

But the Grove is thousands of miles away, and so I let the car headlights be my candles tonight. The memories came flooding back, sweet, painful, sad. Powerful. My life these days has very little connection to the life I had in the HIV community for over twenty years. But today, something much bigger than the day to day schedule took over, and I was able to stop, to meditate on the lessons learned, the friends lost and those still living with HIV.

My life has changed so much because of HIV. I know without any doubt, that I was better able to deal with my own cancer because of so many of the people I met along the way, doing battle with an illness for which cure was not an option.

Today, I had to schedule gallbladder surgery for a few weeks from today. I did it with all the fanfare of making an appointment to get my teeth cleaned. Life has certainly shown me some perspective. And it started a long time ago, in the beginning of the epidemic, in my thirties, when I was not supposed to be losing my friends. I grew up with HIV in some ways, and I know I live my life differently because of it.Tofeel like I am supposed to be somewhere. This feeling was with me, vaguely, from the time I woke up, all day, and continued as I left my office late this evening (well, later than usual) and walked to my parking deck. The lights from the cars under the bridge to the deck reminded me, suddenly, of candles. And I started to remember so many of the bright lights in my life, now gone.

Candles have lots of associations, from birthdays to Hanukkah, but on this day, the thing I remembered the most was the marches. The AIDS vigils, those candles flickering, struggling against the fog and wind of chilly San Francicsco nights. And the sense of solidarity standing among strangers and friends, silently, remembering, praying, crying, wanting.

I know there were World AIDS Day things happening on campus at UNC today, but I had things to do and well, that is just not a part of my day to day life anymore. It was for over two decades, so the lack or loss of it still feels odd. Like I have a dual sense of being here and being at the National AIDS Memorial Grove or somewhere else, producing an event or doing something in memory of all the friends who died. And in celebration of those still living.

So tonight, instead of the flickering candles, the lights around me had to do. I meditated on those I love, still living with HIV. And those I don't even know, around the world, dying from a disease that should have been fixed by now. I listened to W today at the White House "commemoration" of World AIDS Day, and once again, he just sounded like an idiot. He should not be allowed to speak on occassions like this, his lack of any grasp of the real issues, the scope of the world pandemic make anything he attempts to utter sound trivial and stupid. And it is anything but.

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