A Quilt For Charlie: Remembering
My Brother Who Died Of AIDS
By Suzanne Braun Levine,
Huff/Post50, GAY VOICES
When my brother Charlie died of AIDS in February 1985, the epidemic had barely begun. The disease, first reported in 1981, had come out of nowhere, and no one had any idea what caused it or how to treat it. But there was plenty of uninformed panic and prejudice.
Some called it “gay cancer” and preached that it was God’s punishment for the sin of homosexuality. Even professionals were afraid; Charlie couldn’t find a dentist willing to look at a painful wisdom tooth because none dared expose themselves to his saliva. Even the heroic people who did care for those with the disease couldn’t do much more than help them die. And more than 600,000 have died since then in the U.S. alone.
Many of them are commemorated in panels of the amazing quilt assembled by The NAMES Project Foundation. Started by the gay community in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood (which was ground zero for activism back then) the quilt is composed of three-foot by six-foot sewn panels created by friends and family to celebrate lost ones. It was first displayed 25 years ago on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Charlie’s partner, a wonderful artist and devoted care-giver named Dick Obenchain created a panel featuring a brown cow and the names of the animals Charlie had loved, the people who had loved him and the Indian deities to whom he felt especially close…