One of the reasons I decided to leave Toronto some fifteen years ago was the overwhelming sense of loss I felt. The first ‘real’ relationship had ended, the job I thought would be my career was gone, and I had lost so many, too many, friends, acquaintances and tricks to what was first labeled GRID (Gay-related immune deficiency).
There is (or was) a magazine distributed free at gay bars and the restaurants and coffee shops frequented by we gay folk called Xtra. Near the front was a section entitled “Proud Lives” to remember those we had lost. I still recall the day I opened the newest issue to see that, for the first time, there was absolutely no one in that section that I knew, or knew of. There was a certain sense of relief; until I realized that all the people listed were younger than I was at the time. And I was barely in my thirties!
I was a volunteer with ACT (the Aids Committee of Toronto) and sat with friends at Casey House (Hospice) or helped them in their homes. But had stopped attending funerals; I just could not do that anymore. I finally decided that I needed to leave the city. At least for awhile; my intent is to retire there and, at some distance time, expire in the city of my birth. Every time I return to Toronto I stop at the permanent Aids Memorial. It is a mixed blessing; so many names in one place. Too many names. Too many familiar names. And yet, I can ‘visit’ with them all there.
It’s not that I need to be there to remember; at any moment something I read, or hear, or see, may bring up a memory of someone from that list. But it is comforting to have a time when I remember and honour all of them. It isn’t on December 1st (“World Aids Day“) as that is, for me, about keeping up the fight against aids, and against the hatred and bigotry that helped the disease spread. And it’s not February 14th- although as the unofficial Canadian gay celebration “Pink Triangle Day” that date is dedicated to celebrating and honouring the love in our lives.
Every year, for some time now, Joe Jervis has re-posted his entry I Will Hold You Ten Times on February 2nd as a memorial to “Daniel Johnson, who threw the most kickass Groundhog’s Day birthday parties for himself” – I think that today, as we look eagerly forward to spring and new growth, is the perfect time to put aside a few moments to celebrate those who’s lives were cut short.
To allow ourselves to grieve, to remember, and to mourn. Lest we forget…