May 2, 2012 in General

A few weeks ago a friend I’d dropped out of touch with found me via facebook, and she said how good I was looking compared to 10 years ago, and that in fact she was surprised I was still alive.

And 10 years ago I sure as hell didn’t think I’d still be here today. But I’m glad I am.

One of the things about those days was the AIDS quilt.

Last week the NZ AIDS Memorial Quilt was handed over to Te Papa, which is probably the best place for it now. I didn’t go to the ceremony. I felt a little guilty about that. But I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with the quilt I guess.

I asked myself whether or not I wanted to be remembered with one or not a few times, assuming I’d died of course. I used to go out and speak about living with AIDS in schools with it at times.

Some of the panels still make me cry, when I see the names of guys who were my friends decades ago, who died before I came back to NZ. But it also seems caught up in that era of death and suffering that now seems so distant.

It’s hard to recall just how black and hopeless things were in the old days of AIDS. On the one hand you want to say “Never forget” on the other, I know that like any graveyard, in time nearly all of those named on the quilt will pass into oblivion. That pain and anguish, the tears and suffering, and the heroism and love, will all be forgotten in a few more decades.

It really did feel like living in a war-zone.

It was a time of amazing struggles, self-sacrifice, pain, anguish and love. It turned people’s lives upside down, and there was a time when going to one or more AIDS funerals a month wasn’t unusual at all.

For me anyway, death seemed everywhere, and my own death seemed to be right there in front of me.

I consciously decided to try and have a good death, and I have to say that preparing to die has been the most meaningful project I’ve ever undertaken – nothing else has seemed so gripping as focusing on how to exit well. So I spent about 3 years of my life focussing on my death, preparing for it, not willing to die in the way I’d seen others – I wanted “a good death” whatever that is.

But I didn’t die, in fact, I am in better health now than I have been in years, as is the case with so many HIV+ people.

So I guess I feel a reluctance to return to that era of sorrow and death. That’s what I didn’t go to the quilt ceremony, and that’s why I won’t be going to the Candlelight Memorial either. I feel as though my life was soaked in death and pain and sorrow over those years, it was woven into the fabric of my being.

I can understand now why so many soldiers who come back from war don’t want to talk about it all. It was traumatic, it was painful, it was a shocking thing to live through.

I do remember, I won’t forget, but I have this sense that I have done enough mourning.

Now I want to stand in the sunlight and laugh.




    1. Surprised says:

      I’m shocked. You think that Te Papa, and not Gay Man Central, Inc., run only by gay men, for only gay men, to serve the needs and interests of only gay men, is the best place for the AIDS Memorial Quilt? I guess you must be mellowing in your old age.

      • ray says:

        Surprised….I think Michael knows the quilt isnt just for gay men. Just a little childish of you i think……….

    2. ray says:

      Michael …do you think the pain and heroism of those years is still remembered? I think it was forgotten by many men about 10 years ago!!

      • Hi Ray, and yes, the process of forgetting started a while back of course – and I guess it’s inevitable – what happened then doesn’t matter to current generations. I said a while ago one of the weaknesses in there being a real gay community is our inability to pass our culture down through time, I think this just shows that.

        • ray says:

          Its interesting how each generation of ‘gay’ men seems to remain quite isolated from each other…. guess it may have to do with the issue of attraction and the reality that our ‘culture’ is predominately sexual attraction based. So we older men just gradually disappear off the scene or, if we remain, wander around in the shadows or become eccentric or just get on with enjoying what life we have left…

          Saw you last sunday…. great north rd shops


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