Today is World AIDS Day. For me the faces of so many friends are vivid in my mind’s eye. Friends who I buried. Young men who died during the 80’s and 90’s. I buried so many of them. In the early years I remember when people got diagnosed and died within days and weeks. Even today when I visit the cemetaries in Los Angeles, I can still recall where so many of them are buried and I often place a stone upon their marker. This is the traditional Jewish way of saying someone has visited a loved one who has died.
I remember the years when nurses in some hospitals would leave the food outside the door. Rev. Troy Perry of the MCC Churches and I would enter the rooms (all gowned up as was required in those years) and feed the young men when they were too weak to feed themselves. Often there was no family around, no lover to help.
I remember the years when some of the Jewish mortuaries questioned preparing the bodies for funerals and the education we had to do. Or when the rabbinic chaplain at Cedars hospital would refuse to visit AIDS patients and I would come and do so.
I remember the early years of Search Alliance that sought drug trials and experiments of everything from Compound Q to chinese herbs and squash. I remember the when AZT made its debut and how it radically changed the course of things.
I remember getting arrested with Rev. Nancy Wilson and Rev. Malcom Boyd as we protested and demonstrated trying to secure more funds from the Los Angeles County Supervisors for AIDS prevention and funding for health care for people with AIDS.
I remember so many memorial services and celebrations of life. And families who mourned and lovers who mourned and co-workers and friends. I remember so many families that rejected their child and treated the lover with disdain. I remember running a support group each week that offered solace and hope. And our support group at temple that still meets monthly and is the only Jewish HIV/AIDS support group in the United States!
I pray regularly for the day when AIDS will be cured. Here and everywhere. I pray for the day when no one else gets infected and everyone practices safer sex. I pray that young people will understand that they are vulnerable and that they need to be careful. I pray that no one forget the many who have died.
May their memories live for a blessing.