Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Quilt

And I never really was able to tell you.
That's why I'm telling you now that you can't hear.
It ain't gonna be the same around here without you.
And I'm holding back a flood behind one tear.
And we'll go down to the post-mortem bar,
And catch up on the years that have passed between us,
And we'll tell our stories.
Do you remember when the world was just like a carnival opening up?
from the movie "Longtime Companion"
This Saturday, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. Of all the tributes to those we've lost, none is more profound to me than the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Perhaps because of the manner of its creation, it seems to radiate with life, as if the souls of the deceased imparted some of their grace upon the quilt's fabric. It may not have been conceived as religious art, but it is sacred nonetheless.

I only saw the Quilt once, when a portion of it was displayed on the Berkeley campus while I was a student there, but just looking at photographs of it stirs something inside of me. It reminds me so much of the Communion of Saints tapestries at the Cathedral here in Los Angeles. Both are tangible expressions of what I mean by "Family of the One", that we humans are siblings, not strangers.

And that is the worst tragedy of AIDS, past and present, that so many of those who died were ostracized and stigmatized. At the moment they most needed to feel part of a larger family, they were thrown away, like the lepers of old. The saddest panels on the Quilt are the ones "For those who died alone." If we do nothing else on Saturday, let us set aside our fears and judgments and vow that none of our brothers and sisters will ever die alone again, that each will know their family's love.

"You are my sibling. We are family. This is the essential truth of life. It is the only moral truth that really matters."