Our Remembrance Day for Long Lost Friends  

Posted by H in , ,

December 1st was the World AIDS Day. I think the importance of such events is pretty obvious and considering the topic of this blog, I am sure everybody visiting these pages knows already why it matters and how serious the issue is.

I could though rant for a little while on the less well-known *negative* impacts of such events, as they sometimes do to have the opposite effect of boring people to death by asking them for contributions every year, eventually becoming part of a routine that only reminds people of bad things: money, death, and the long-road towards possibly more effective treatments.

But that's not really my point. Today, I just want to remember. Remember a friend of mine who died of AIDS a couple of years ago. He received a call from a girl he occasionally had sex with a few years ago on a Saturday morning, and she told him she had been diagnosed with AIDS and was warning all of her past relationships and flings. The news hit hard at first, mostly because he had not been in touch with her for a while but cared for her dearly, but then he let go and it's only weeks later that he finally went to get himself checked-up. He was single at the time she called and felt fine. When he finally met someone and things started to get serious, he went to the clinic. And learned he was positive. Then he lost it a little, went on travelling for months when he could have undergone treatment, and eventually the disease got the better of him. He died just 20 months after receiving this dreaded phone call, and left behind his girlfriend, who had stayed with him through his final hours. 2 lives stolen and 1 shattered for months.

I told G. this story when we saw an announcement for the World AIDS Day on TV last week, and we realized that even know we had been talking about this disease as a couple, we never shared these memories. As it happens, she lost 3 co-workers (one of who was not a sex-worker but a "normal-life" / "normal-job" co-worker, by the way) to AIDS.
The first of them, she actually lost when she was still rather young and starting in the business. It was a girl of her age, who was reckless and eventually probably came across the wrong type of punter. She didn't get checked-up regularly, had left very quickly the agency where G. worked back then, and started as an independent. She got sick for a while but refused to see a doctor. G. used to think it was just her way, reckless and restless as usual, too young to die as she was. Now she thinks she might actually have had more problems to cope with her lifestyle, and that she felt too embarassed to seek help and talk about it.
She eventually asked her former colleagues for support, and after a while she finally accepted their advice of finally seeing a doctor, unfortunately too late.
The other girl was working with G. in another agency, a few years before I met her. In another country also, actually. She was older than G. by roughly 2 decades, and had been in the business for years. It was her death which actually finally made G. become more aware and more careful about everything related to STDs. From G.'s recollection, she was depressed for months after her death. This particular girl was actually sort of a mentor for her, both in terms of professional services, but also for many other aspects of her life. They also ended up having a thing together for a while. Nothing serious, just all in good fun. But always safe-fun, on this girl's own terms. She felt strongly about protection, and rightly so. Yet she caught it, without knowing it. Either from a casual unprotected encounter she never confessed, but according to G. probably from a simple accident. She was getting checked very regularly and found out quickly. She fought the disease for months, and G. kept in touch. She felt a bit sad for her, as she says lots of the other girl in this agency suddenly looked down on that poor girl. In some countries and areas, getting the bug is like being branded. You become an untouchable.

After exchanging these stories, we decided we both wanted to commemorate these friends and acquaintances, as they had impacted our lives. Especially in the case of that last girl, as if it weren't for her, G. could have caught it herself later. Maybe. Who knows. But she did have a great influence on her, and taught her lots of the tricks and tools of the trade.

So G. and I went to visit the graves of two of them with flowers, who are buried in our area. We then decided to make a donation. So should you. For the locals of San Francisco, you can donate on the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. For others, pick any organization that matters to you, like the National AIDS Trust.

We spent the rest of the day sharing memories of these 4 people, both good and bad. It was a time for laughter and tears. We thought of attending some local events surrounding World AIDS Day, but eventually decided to just keep reminiscing on our own. We talked for hours in bars we used to frequent with some of them, and eventually spent the evening in one of our favorite spots outside of SF, watching the sky during a cold cold night.

Here's to our lost friends.


Very impressive post. Thanks for sharing these stories.

Thank you for reading it Richard.

I think it's important to remember things, both from a personal perspective and from a more global consciousness point of view. It pains me when I think that some good-doers won't be remembered years from now, yet alone their actions. It's even worse when the actions of wrong-doers are forgotten, but not their authors.

And sometimes, maybe it's even worse to just forget a friend and someone who touched your life.

Memories are the only true way to immortality. Some make it ... some don't. We all hope to for a short time at least... via children, friends etc.

Great post.

Yes, this is totally true.
However I really hope this is NOT a reason (or definitely not the MAIN one) for having children, or that's a bit pathetic for the parents, and a bit worrying for the poor kid in the future.

Though I'm sure that happens, and I have empathy for the family's therapists ;)

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