Thursday, December 14, 2006

The AIDS Memorial Quilt


Late last month the AIDS Memorial Quilt came to town, and I was one of several who went to look at it. Standing before the quilt and looking at the elaborate embroidery and patchwork, I felt peaceful. It was strange standing there, marveling at the beauty, and yet simultaneously aware that each piece marked a life lost, a human being painfully wrenched away from loved ones. How was it that several years of pain had been translated into soothing colors and boldly outlined words? I was awed at the power of the quilt to arrest my steps and to pull me in close enough to follow the stories of the young heroes and heroines.

To one section of the quilt, friends and family had carefully sewn pictures of the woman they had loved and lost- pictures taken at different points in her life. My eyes moved from picture to picture, wondering whom she was smiling at in that picture, and why there was a twinkle in her eye in the next. Who had selected each picture? Was it her mother, whom I could see cradling her baby daughter in the black and white picture in the right hand corner of the panel? How deep her grief must be to have lost her daughter, and how intense her desire to remember her and to share these memories with us. Did she feel an ache inside when she looked at that picture and remembered?

Why did I feel compelled to sit down facing the quilt, and to gaze at it for minutes? What did I actually see and feel in those pictures, in the purple and red hearts, in the shiny material and in the soft velvet? Was I sharing with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives and lovers in the act of remembering? How was it that I felt as if I was looking through the scrapbook of my closest friend? I could not possibly have been born when that picture was taken, and yet I could remember the sepia-toned moment as if it was yesterday.

This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Please feel free to use my writing for non-commercial purposes and do credit my name (Rose Kahendi) as the writer.

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