I remember where I was when President Reagan was shot: I was in 6th grade band: 1981.
I remember where I was when I heard that Rock Hudson had died of a new-found disease called AIDS: walking down the high school hallway with my classmates who all knew more than I did about Rock Hudson, but I was able to grasp that this AIDS was a new and terrible disease: 1985.
I remember where I was when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded into bits one minute after take-off: Home, sick on the couch during my junior year of high school: 1986.
I remember where I was when the Berlin Wall came down: Victorian Lit. class at Luther. A German student kept exclaiming: "I can't believe I'm in America while this is happening in my country!" 1989.
Why this walk down memory lane? This week we had some visitors who came to Bezer Home, and I asked a few of our women to share a story from their life of living with HIV. Three of them shared from the heart about what it has meant to live with HIV. Then one of our visitors from California stood up and shared her own story with us: "My daughter has been living with HIV since 1988 when she was 17, and she's still alive today." She proceeded to give us a brief sketch of her daughter's life and to report to us that she's quite healthy today because of the ARV drugs she is taking. Her daughter openly tells her story to the people around her, and she also speaks to large gatherings.
I had to take a walk down memory lane because her daughter and I were in high school at the same time. Her daughter contracted this disease near the beginning of its known existence. I find it interesting that I have such a clear picture in my mind of where I was when I learned about this disease. I have it catalogued inside my brain alongside major national and international events. Of course, back in those days, I never knew that I would one day work alongside people living with HIV/AIDS.
Our women are used to being open with our visitors; we have learned that there is freedom in sharing. When visitors are open with us, something clicks between us and instant friendship is forged as stories of intense pain are shared mutually. That day our women sang and danced with great joy, knowing they are not alone in their struggles.