Where did Raymond go?Wed, Jul 25 2012 by | FILED UNDER: General
The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt returns to the National Mall. Through July 25th, 8,800 panels of The Quilt are unveiled on the Mall and other sites throughout Washington, DC daily. Each panel honors the life of an individual who died of AIDS. The panels are 8 feet by 6 feet, the dimensions of an average grave, in remembrance of the lives, the deaths, and the work to be done to end the AIDS pandemic.
Once upon a time, during my childhood, I knew a man who passed away of AIDS. Although at the time, I did not know he was an adult, nor did I know that he had died let alone from AIDS. His name was Raymond and he was my neighbor. As a pre-schooler, I thought of him as a fun big kid who was always gentle-spirited. By the time I was 5 years old, I began to notice that I no longer saw Raymond. I would ask, “Where did Raymond go?” No answer. Nonetheless, I always remembered how kind, good-humored and playful he was with me and my brother. As a teenager, I asked again, “Whatever happened to Raymond?” Finally, I was told he had died of AIDS. I erroneously assumed that he was a gay teen who like many did not escape the AIDS pandemic. I recall that even at a young age I instinctively knew he was different; but, I did not know why he was different…I thought maybe it had something to do with him being a big kid. Over the weekend as I watched volunteers display The Quilt blocks, I learned Raymond was not a teenager and he was not gay. He was a mentally challenged forty year old man whose outward appearance belied his challenges. I learned women flocked to him because he was handsome; but, they did not love him as he believed and ultimately one of them infected him with HIV. Where did Raymond go? Raymond was hospitalized and died within 48 hours of his diagnosis…he had AIDS.