Lenard Mace – HIV/AIDS

“It swept through this community like a hurricane.”

Oh my God. [AIDS] was devastating, absolutely devastating. In 1985 until 1995 I personally lost over 100 friends or acquaintances. The very first man in Spokane who died of AIDS was my best friend. And in 1995 my best friend died, after 10 years of being involved and actually doing hands on care with a number of people. I can’t tell you the number of memorial services that I was involved with. It seemed like, for about five years, we were doing them on a weekly basis. You get into such a state of grief. There was a five-year period where it was just all the time; you never came out of grieving. When my when my friend Craig, the co-founder of Emmanuel [MCC], died in ’95, life as I knew it was over. He had been like a brother to me and I couldn’t do anymore. For two years, I did absolutely nothing involved with this community. I didn’t want to see people. I was afraid to let anybody in, because they were going to die, you know? I went through this horrible survivor’s guilt thing. I’d been doing all the same things all my buddies had been doing and I didn’t have it. That’s a burden. Yeah, it swept through this community like a hurricane. It definitely changed the entire community. I could tell you horrible, horrible, gut wrenching stories about how AIDS swept over this community and the impact it had on Emmanuel. Many of our members died.

You know, the one thing I need to say, and I think this has been true in many communities: if it had not been for the lesbian community, I don’t think this community would have survived. It was the women who banded together and became the caregivers. They did everything. They were the errand runners and the shoppers. They really rose to the occasion. It was a wonderful thing to see. To this day, most of my friends are women. Now, there is something wrong with that picture! [Laughs.] I have this wonderful group of lesbians who just protect me with their lives. I’ll often be the only male in the group. I’ve been named “honorary lesbian for life.”

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Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson and Katya M., 2007; held in the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.