Today is my birthday. With it comes cards, hopefully a cake and trick or treaters to the door.
What it doesn't bring is the phone call I had every year with my friend, Gary, who shared the same birthday, even the same year. He died of AIDS 10 years ago.
The two of us together were awful. Disgusting. Gross. Hilarious. But we were committed to educating people about AIDS and we spent many hours together in a wide variety of settings talking to so many people about his illness. We laughed, got a little teary sometimes and totally passionate about the work.
Most of all he wanted me to be his witness. I needed to tell people that he was loved and had made a difference in his time here.
I have kept my word to him every single day. While I may not talk about him all the time, I still have a hole in my heart where his physical presence used to be and I fill it with the love we shared. There is still a hole there. It will not ever be filled in this lifetime.
Gary was one of the few people who could stop me in my tracks with some smart ass comment. One time we were at a 12-step LGBT convention. He was over 6 foot and he looked down at me and said, "You know, you are so short you could blow me without bending over."
When I needed him he was there and I for him. When his partner was dying, I went to go see them. Chet had the death rattle. He would never regain consciousness. I talked to Chet about keeping his Christmas traditions alive year after year, putting up little houses with lights and people in them. Another promise kept.
After Chet was gone, Gary told me he couldn't change the sheets because he could still smell his long time partner there. He would just lay in bed and hold the pillow.
When it was his time to go, somehow somebody ended up being the gatekeeper and not letting any of us come to say goodbye. He passed without so many of his friends having a last time to share nasty jokes with him.
The good news is that he and Chet are together again, laughing and carrying on. The bad news is that I have to go on without him, celebrating who knows how many more birthdays without him.
Gary McMillin, you are loved and you made a difference. May we all have the same legacy.