I’m a twin, in case you did not know. My sister Marge is married with two grown daughters and lives with her husband Mike in New Jersey. So hold that thought for a minute.
Last weekend, I visited my girlfriends for our semi-annual tradition of coming together for friendship and fun and just being together. We went to Mineral Point, Wisconsin, a very small town about an hour west of Madison. It was so small we drove right through it without realizing that we should’ve made a turn in order to find this small arts community we were looking to visit. There were some interesting galleries, one of which was holding an exhibit of quilts from the AIDS Names Project. You might remember it.
I was immediately struck by them. Twelve feet square assemblages of six quilts handmade by the friends and family of those who died of HIV-AIDS. The gallery held some quilts of people from the local area. The whole Names Project holds 48,000 quilts and is the largest community folk arts project in the world. It was on display on the Washington Mall beginning in 1987. My brother Paul’s quilt is among them and today is the 30th anniversary of his death. So when I saw the exhibit, I felt that he was reaching out to me.
I found a photo of his quilt on the Names Project Foundation’s website.
Now about my sister Marge. Unbeknownst to me, she found Paul’s quilt and ordered a framed photo of it from the Names Project. It arrived on Monday. She remembers going to Washington to see his quilt and signing the back of it. I think Paul was sending a message to her as well. The twins were channeling his spirit. Maybe it took two of us.
Today, so many memories are with me of Paul, how funny and playful he was. Of my family, who was so supportive in the face of a society who, at the time, was openly hostile and hateful toward gay people. And even more despicable toward those who suffered from the disease to the point of funeral homes refusing to bury the dead. Really. Refused to bury them. For many, a distant memory now.
Today, I know a kind of breaking through, a connection across the veil, that is as real as a pinprick on my skin. Paul poked through and let us know that he is here. His smile, his inventiveness with electronics, his hopes of having his own business, his place in our family. I think he just wanted to let us know that all is well, he’s fine and happy and feeling loved.
As you might recall those you have lost, those who you remember as precious, know that there is only a thin veil that separates you. I hope you feel the pinprick, the way they sometimes poke through to us, just to say we are loved.