Thanksgiving to World AIDS Day

Thank you. Thank you for acknowledging the power of a virus to ravage lives. Thank you for extending compassion to every human being, protec...

Monday, November 26, 2018

Woven Together

A guest in my home is likely to sleep under Bret’s quilt. Mom made one for each of us, carefully choosing colors and themes to fit our personality, often from childhood. Bret loved the water and his early drawings were full of cute little creatures with big features so it was fitting that his quilt would be covered with friendly frogs in a watery sea of blues, greens and purple. His quilt was finished in time to cover Bret in love through the last days of his life and remains a tangible memory of my little brother, in my home.

My first glimpse of Peter’s quilt panel was the same year Mom stitched 2 quilts for a raffle to raise donations for the 2000 Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride. Lovingly assembled by family and friends soon after his 1995 death from AIDS-related causes, Peter Harding’s family chose to personally share his panel rather than add it to the ever-growing AIDS Memorial Quilt. As a result, this extraordinary piece of art was passed from cousin to friend, sister to neighbor, displayed in classrooms, churches and community events across the country. Peter’s sister Mary would share the touching story of his inspiring life, illustrated by this beautiful panel which came along on our Alaska and New York rides. Peter’s panel would make its final solo appearance this year in Atlanta.

The morning after our 200-mile weekend AIDS ride, a select, supportive group of AIDS Vaccine 200 family joined Mary at the new Names Project Foundation headquarters in downtown Atlanta for the significant delivery of Peter’s panel. We took our time, laying out the panel for all to marvel at the detail and love added by each contributor including more recent family additions. This magnificent panel will be joined to another 7 forming one of more than 6,000 blocks dedicated to over 96,000 individuals lost to AIDS. The Harding mission to remember Peter while maintaining awareness of the AIDS pandemic can now go viral as each panel is digitized and displayed with the memories shared by those who knew Peter best.

That same weekend, 3,000 miles away, another gathering celebrated the life of Gretchen Piscotty. Gretchen and I were new moms, neighbors and fellow church members in California who kept in touch over the years through mutual friends. Her battle with ALS was short and fierce. Gretchen was determined to live every second to the fullest and had family and friends close at hand to make that happen as they tenderly launched Gretchen into her next journey.

Mary heard about the nearby Snohomish Ride to Defeat ALS and suggested we ride it together in
honor of Gretchen. The 60-mile event experience was like every charity ride, from the bustle of crew setting up registration, snacks, water and gear checks to the nervous energy of each cyclist, some experienced and most others not. Hardest to miss at this event was the large multi-generational team of riders and crew in matching jerseys and tees with

the distinguishable graphic of a colorful patchwork quilt on a black background. Team Granny had travelled from Arizona to honor their matriarch and remember her as more than a victim of ALS. Granny, I would learn, was a loving wife, mother, friend and remarkable quilter, just like Gretchen.

The patchwork symbol woven through this cycling season depicts for me the interconnected value each unique contribution makes to the beauty and significance of the whole. Cherished lives are honored and remembered by the actions of those who come together to grace their story and carry their legacy forward. Thank you for contributing to these stories in 2018. Together we bring hope for the journey onward!