Haunting! Yes Haunting is the only word that came to my mind when I finally got a chance to watch "YESTERDAY" that was aired on HBO on Monday, November 28th. Praise the lord for TiVo!
The Description of Yesterday by HBO:
"Set in today’s South Africa, YESTERDAY is a story of courage, compassion and hope that puts a human face on the AIDS crisis, following the struggles of a young mother with AIDS as she tries to secure her daughter’s future. Set against the awesome, harsh landscapes of South Africa, Yesterday is the first international feature film ever shot in the Zulu language. "
1st I'll say this. This was an excellent movie. For me it brough back so many memories of friends gone. I think that's why the movie was haunting for me. It reminded me of soo many things. I'm not going to tell you about the movie but instead the things that came to mind while and after watching it. I think you all should see it. It's on HBO so it'll show about 537 times this month.
The movie reminded me of the great sadness, disbelief and fear that I witnessed and felt. I know that many of us in my age bracket especially can relate to that statement.
It also reminded me of the 1st furneral that I attended in 1981 for someone who had passed away due to AIDS complications.
I got a call from a my friend Greg telling me that his ex-lover, who I also knew Vernon, had passed away. Vernon had been in the hospital off and on for awhile, but I never went to visit. I just couldn't bring myself to go. I was afraid, because I didn't really understand the disease. I thought that if I didn't go to the hospital and see him there that in my mind he was ok and like I just hadn't seen him in awhile. Or maybe I conjured up an illusion that he had moved away.
Well now the reality of AIDS was staring me right in the face because now the illusions that I wrapped around me like a soft and warm security blanket turned into a blanket of nails. The points of the nails pricked my skin in places on my body that made my eyes water and forced me to see that I was hurt.
The day of Vernon's funeral.
I don't remember the name of the funeral home where he was because it was not one of the bigger funeral homes in Los Angeles. When he was taken from the hospital he was first taken to Harrisson-Ross, who after finding out the cause of death refused to take him. They said they didn't have the facilities to take care of anyone who died in the manner in which Vernon had. Greg and Vernon's mother(Vernon's only family) called many funeral homes in the Black Community and were also turned away. Finally, this one small home decided to take him and allow the funeral to take place there. What a relief we all felt.
When we got to the funeral home we were told by the home that it would be a closed casket funeral. The home stated that due to health hazards this is how it had to be. This shocked us but because we were unfamiliar with the guidelines of funeral homes so we accepted what they said.
There was of course weeping and smiling as people spoke about the Vernon that we all knew. Then it was time to go to the Cemetray. Vernon's mother weeped and carressed the casket saying, "I just hate I can't see my baby before he is put to rest". In the limo to the Cemetary Greg asked her hadn't she seen him when they brought him to the home. She hadn't. The home told her that it was not possible for her to view him after embalming him due to those regulations.
This was not making sense now. Immediately outside the Cemetary the Hearse stopped. I saw Greg and Vernon's mother get out of the Limo. I didn't know what was going on but thought that it would be handled briefly. All of a sudden I could see the Hearse Driver, The limo Driver and officials from the Cemetary waving their hands in frustration and could hear inaudible sounds of anger from all. This is when those in the procession began to get out of our cars to see what was happening.
Once we all reached the Family we were told that the Hearse was stopped because Vernon's mother was not going to let her son be buried without her getting a last look at him. They stopped outside the cemetary because the proprietor said that because Vernon was in the Military and being buried at at government owned cemetary, once his body passed the gates he would become the property of the government and his mother would have no rights. Everyone was mortified to say the least.
The next thing I knew Greg was standing in front of the Hearse shouting, "You will not bring his body into this Cemetary until his mother gets a chance to see him". It was suggested that the Hearse driver open the casket right there on the side of the street. He said legally he could not do it. The next and only other option was to take him back to the funeral home. Back to the funeral home we all went.
Once we arrived back at the funeral home Greg and Vernon's mother were allow to go in the back to view his body. We all thought that all would be fine now. When the casket was opened, things could not have been further from fine that what I'm about to tell you.
Vernon was still naked and still wrapped in the sheet from the hospital and in a plastic bag! After this atrocity, you can imagine the yelling, screaming and whaling that took place. Even the local new station was called to to expose this funeral home and it's abhorrent behavior. They were not interested in the story.
The only thing left to do was to cancel the burial and have him moved from this funeral home. After 3 days Vernon was moved to a White owned funeral home who treated him with dignity.
Many people today do not know of the horrible things that took place like this. After that funeral I went to a funeral at least once a month for at least 2 years straight. I became numb after awhile and could not shed tears, nor did I have words to express how I felt. I was loosing friends as if they were roaches being exterminated.
They were not roaches, they were my friends, my extended family and past loves. They were and are important! Its strange that the importance of their deaths has so little meaning now. People who are HIV+ now do not look like they are HIV+ anymore. This has changed the face of the disease and caused many to feel safe from contracting this disease.
This is a double-edged sword. Because people feel less vulnerable they are taking more chances with their lives becasue they believe that if someone doesn't look like they have the AIDS antibodies then they must be ok. This is not a healthy attitude to take.
Doctors have done some amazing things for this disease by creating medications that cause those infected to blend in with those not infected. This is not only amazing it is important to the mental well being of the survivors. Back in the 80's and early 90's, family members, friends and anyone on the street treated people with HIV as if they could transmit the disease just by looking at you.
I wonder how long it will take those in Africa to be able to manage this disease as well as we are in the states.
Thank you for being a part of my life Vernon, Greg (yes Vernon's ex), George, Gregory, Joey, Michael, Vincent, Michael, Gary, Clifford, Al, and soooooo many other friends that are now watching all of us deal with the same disease that has a new face.