There was a surprise for me on Facebook this morning: a message from Sinan in Provincetown, asking if I had any digital pictures of my brother Jim.
I met Sinan through Jim, before Jim died of AIDS in 1987.
Today was World AIDS Day, and Sinan wanted to post a remembrance of him in honor of the day. At work, I only had access to a couple, pictures that I had used in a previous blog post. I sent those off to him. A while later, I logged on to FB, and there was one of the pictures as Sinan’s profile picture for the day. Next to the picture was his post, which read simply, “Remembering Jim”
It was jarring, but beautiful and perfect. Before long, several of his friends who knew Jim had posted brief remembrances of him. Sinan posted the other picture, and a few more people weighed in. I’ll tell you, it felt great to see people who remembered my brother after nearly 25 years.
The first two pictures here are the ones I sent to Sinan. Regular readers will have seen them before, in (Avoiding) The Road To Provincetown, a blog post I wrote after visiting there in September 2010. After I came home from work this evening, I found a few more pictures to scan and share. As usual, click on the thumbnails for larger versions.
When I think of Jim, I don’t think about AIDS. I knew him for more than a quarter century before he had AIDS, and only eight months after he was diagnosed. And because he lived in Provincetown, I only saw him for a couple of brief visits after the diagnosis, and both times he was remarkably healthy. So, fortunately or not, I didn’t share in the misery of the disease.
We learned of his diagnosis on December 9, 1986. I’ll never forget the call I received from my dad that night in which he gave me the news, and the state of shock I was in for the next few weeks afterward. As I read and learned more about AIDS, however, I discovered that there was a lot of reason to be optimistic; there were a number of new treatments that were showing a lot of promise.
And the next April, when Jean and I traveled to Provincetown for Easter, Jim seemed to be completely healthy. He had quit smoking, was exercising and taking care of himself, and it seemed like he would be with us a long time. He came to St. Louis a month or so later, and still felt and looked great. A month after that, though, he was hit with a second bout of pneumocystis pneumonia, and on July 9, he was gone.
Now, of course, the prognosis for anyone diagnosed with HIV or AIDS is much better. Some of those drugs that were being developed when Jim got sick have turned out to be remarkably effective in keeping the virus that causes AIDS in check. It’s not a “cure” yet, but it’s a lot closer to one than two decades ago. Score one for modern medical science.
The first World AIDS Day was December 1, 1988. On that night, we went to a candlelight memorial service at the Ethical Society of St. Louis. To my surprise, the pews were full. I even ran into a co-worker who had lost a friend to AIDS; neither of us had known about the others’ loss. Which is kind of the way it was with this disease, at least back then, and probably even now; a lot more people were infected, or knew people who were infected, than we ever knew.
This year, thanks to Sinan, the day turned into a completely unplanned and emotion-swirling trip back into a time decades ago. Back then, digital photography was a dream (heck, even music CDs were in their infancy). Photo scanners were unheard of, and of course so was the Internet, let alone something like Facebook. Jim, I think, would have loved Facebook and the ability to stay connected and share pictures—and memories—with people across thousands of miles.