I saw a new post on the AIDS Memorial Page, that inspired me to write about two men I knew in Sweden, Matti and Michael.
It was Mark Mitchinson, who wrote about his friend, James Harning, and posted many photos of him, also one photo where you see many Kaposis Sarcoma lesions on Mr Harning´s face. I was very grateful for that, because it is possible that people don´t know what it looks like.
I met Matti and Michael for the first time on December 21, 1986. I was working extra as an orderly at the same Ward that they were in, but I was not working with Matti. However I knocked on the door, and asked if I could come in and say hello, and they said yes, and I told them that I hoped to write about HIV/AIDS.
Matti was very sick, and covered in dark KS lesions, especially on his face. He was the first person I met with KS.
During the following days when I worked on that Ward I would look in, if possible. One day I handed Matti a little book with poems and tales by a French poet Marie Noël.
There were some words that I liked in a poem called Grandmother´s lullaby. It talks about going to sleep, about setting ones soul free… from all the thoughts, and all the noise.
”I see a sunbeam on the threshold of the door, just big enough to take one step…”
New Years Eve came and I wondered if Matti was alive, and he was, but on January 21st 1987, I saw his death notice.
When I interviewed Michael some time later he told me about their relationship. They had fallen in love, and moved in together very fast. But not long after that they saw that Matti had a dark spot – I think on one of his hips – that they had not seen before, and he went to the doctor. She could not tell what it was, but when he returned to her she asked him about his personal life, and when she found out he was homosexual, she referred him to a certain hospital in Stockholm. Eventually they found out that he had HIV and that he had already developed AIDS. Michael was not HIV-positive.
Michael said that Matti was not as alarmed as he was – for some reason Matti had always thought he would die young.
This happened in the middle of their infatuation, and everything changed of course. They had to adapt to a whole new situation with hospital visits and tests and things like that.
When I met them Matti was, as I have mentioned, covered with lesions. Michael told me about one situation when the lesions even covered his eyes so he could not see. One would think that the lesions would stop, because there were eyes, but the cancer just continued, onto the eyelids.
It was necessary to give him radiation therapy, but that would not be possible to do without hurting his eyes, so what they had to do was to make incisions to insert a plate – I think of copper – between the eyes and the lesions, and when that happened – Michael fainted.
Matti passed away in the hospital, with Michael by his side. His coffin was sent to Finland, where he was buried beside his grandmother, as was his wish. It was in the middle of the winter, and for Michael it was a good experience. People were very friendly towards him.
He was only sad that Matti had been placed in a black plastic bag in the coffin, he would have wanted to open up the coffin and wrap a white sheet around him, but it wasn´t possible.
Michael´s life changed through this experience. He started working as a counselor with AIDS-patients and did that for many years – but few knew he had personal experiences. On one occasion he found it hard, it was when he had a client from Finland that looked very much like Matti, and was treated at the same hospital, and at the same Ward. That was when the past and the present collided.
He met a man a year after the death of Matti, and they have lived together ever since.
I don´t have a photo of Matti and Michael, but when I was in San Francisco in 1987, and visited the NAMESPROJECT, I made a Panel for Matti.
That Panel turned out to be on their first poster. You can see it on the left hand side.