I knew this was World AIDS Day. But, until I went to the grocery store and saw two high school age employees wearing red ribbons, I had not hit me yet that TODAY was the day. It brought me back to 1991 when I lost my best friend from college, Mark.
You know how those best friends are..we loved each other, we shared everything, we drove each other crazy. He was full of life and full of sh#$ all at the same time and I loved him. When he moved to California to pursue his dream of acting, we lost touch. (cell phones and email were not quite as easy to get as they are now).
He came back here to die. His family was in denial and also not willing to help out as much as one would hope. I became his family even more. I learned all kinds of things..how to work the various support and assistance systems in town, how to shop with food stamps, how to help him navigate stores and hikes as his eyesight failed. I also learned what CMV, thrush and pneumonia were like. If you saw Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, you will know pretty much what he went through. It was so close to home, I will never be able to watch that movie again.
The last time I saw him, he had not eaten in two days and was in the hospital. I had scrubbed his apartment until it gleamed as that is what I did every time he was hospitalized. I brought him a chocolate croissant from Fresh Market because it was his favorite thing, EVER. When I got it out of the bag and told him what I had, he opened his eyes wide (I guess hoping he would be able to see but he was blind at that point), smiled and sat up a bit. He ate that entire croissant as I broke it up piece by piece. The next day, he was gone.
I did make him a panel in the AIDS quilt and I have seen it on display a few times. That is the only memorial I got to have for him.
I wonder how much todays’ technology – both medical and personal would have changed their lives? They would have been able to connect with others so much more easily and have support from all over the world. I am grateful that it is available now.
So, today, I am thinking of Mark as others in my life that I have lost, particularly Francis and Ron. And, of all of those who have lost family, friends and others to this disease.