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.