Living with Bay Area Reporter

Living with Bay Area Reporter, BAR.

I started collecting obituaries in BAR in 1987, when I came to San Francisco for the first time. I eventually had a whole stack of them, with hundreds and hundreds of names and photos. In between my visits, a friend of mine that I got to know at BAR, Ann Soucy, sometimes helped me collect obituaries and send them to me.

One must remember that there were people that died that no one wrote about, and, that there were people who did not want to be a BAR- Angel, as someone said to me.

But I have obituaries until the end of 1993. Not all of them, but many. I show them, when I occasionally speak about my work in churches and libraries – to make people understand what it was like in San Francisco, and in other places in the world.

My work with HIV/AIDS has been going on for many years, and during all those, often very lonely years, the obituaries have kept me going.  I have only had to look at the photos, and it all starts again.  As right now, it is in the middle of the night, and I am not tired.

I have wondered what they did in life and what their interests were. How was their death portrayed, who was there when they died, what did their often extended families look like, including cats and dogs, and what charities did they choose?

Obituaries became less poetic over the years,  and just said that the person died, or passed away, or passed away peacefully, often after a valiant battle with AIDS. In 1993 (maybe also before that) BAR changed its policy regarding obituaries:

I thought I would pick out passages from some of the obituaries that were a bit different.  There are so many, but… I begin with a quote by Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825), that was printed in an obituary for

Ralph J. MacNeil Jr. 

”Each departed friend is a magnet that attracts us to the next world.”

Chef Timothy Levens 

Bratsy Patsy packed her bags, kissed her lover of 16 years, Kenyon Marsh, goodbye, slipped from the bondage of this life, and caught an express elevator to the stars.

I wrote this in 2019, and found out, now in 2021, that Timothy Leven´s sister, Theresa Grant had tried to contact me a long time ago. But we found each other and she sent me this Christmas card from Timothy (left) and Kenyon.


William C. Morgan

On the morning of Friday July 21, Will´s free and independent spirit passed quietly into God´s hands.

He was buried in the family plot in Buffalo, Texas ”overlooking rolling hills with trees and open pasture where stallions run free…as free as his soul.”

Gary Lee Brown 

After a long fight with AIDS, Gary Lee passed to a beautiful world full of shining colors with very much love and admiration.

Fred MacKissic 

During the final 22 months of his life, Fred calmly and courageously struggled with AIDS while continuing to help and support those around him. Refusing medication at the last, he died happy and peaceful.

Dennis McCool 

Dennis´ journey here ended as a new door opened for him and he peacefully crossed the threshold. His positive and healthy attitude, mixed with just the right dash of stubbornness, helped him fight strongly against tremendous obstacles presented him by AIDS.

James W. McClure

On February 6 at 6 p.m., as a full moon was rising into a clear winter sky, our dear Jim rose gently into the light.

Joseph Holloway

Early in the morning of July 22, 1993, Joseph Holloway´s life was stolen from him. An insidious plague of homophobia and government inaction stripped him of his dreams and forever ended his tomorrows.

A virus only destroys if it is left unchecked. A decade of presidents not only left the virus unchecked, but fanned a conflagration of ignorance, hate and ineptitude. In 1993 Joseph Holloway did not die from AIDS, he was murdered by it.

Randall James Whittaker

Rand took his leave of this world and flew with his angels early St. Patrick´s Day. He fulfilled his wish to depart through his lover´s arms.

After many years, on August 13, 1998, the front page of BAR said: No Obituaries

The first AIDS Ward and something else…

This post was first posted June 15th, 1919.  I have added something to the post tonight. February 8th, 2021.

In a few days the film 5B about the first AIDS Ward at San Francisco General Hospital, will open. It has already been shown at the film festival in Cannes.

Alison Moëd, in the film, was one of the first people I interviewed at San Francisco General Hospital, in 1987.

A relative of mine just sent me this article about it:


Tomorrow I am off to Gothenburg, to speak in a church on Sunday. Pride finishes there tomorrow, Saturday.

I will speak about the work I have done, but I will also talk about a similar service that took place in Stockholm, in 1990, in Storkyrkan, the big church in Old Town.

But first I want to mention another service in the same church, a few years earlier, April 21st, 1985.  There were a lot of discussions about homosexual people and sex in the society, and the Archbishop had suggested that homosexual people should live in celibacy, because ”sexuality belongs in marriage”.

This was a service, with the Bishop of Stockholm, Krister Stendahl and other priest, about God´s love for all, and healing.

Suddenly a man started screaming: This is Satan´s Synagogue!, and he screamed and screamed.

There were police there dressed in civilian clothes, and they and some visitors carried him out.

But then other men, that had positioned them selves in other places in the church, started screaming and cursing. And visitors started crying.

Bishop Stendahl started singing We shall overcome, and people sang and cried.

It is something very special to hear a person scream in a church. 

For several years I was worried that something similar would happen. And it did, but in different ways. There was some screaming, but his time we were prepared. Other times but people would stand outside the church with big placards saying we would die, or dressed in monk´s habits with dark hoods as Death, with scythes, waiting for us.

There were police, but they were not there to protect us, but the demonstrators that turned out to be Jehova´s Witnesses.

But back to 1990. 

Pride in Stockholm always ends in Storkyrkan, with a service called Kärlekens Mässa / A service of Love, with communion and all. The church is usually packed with people; gay people, parents of gay people, friends.

Before the service, we who were supposed to participate, gathered in the vestry.  We were told that a gay man had been stabbed to death in Gothenburg. It gave the service a very serious and chilling dimension.

It turned out that this man had been provoked by two men outside a gay club, and he didn´t back off, but went after them and that sealed his fate. He was cornered, and then stabbed, 40 or 50 times.

The killers were very young, 19 and 22, and they were Neo-Nazi´s.  They went to jail for this, but not for long. One of them has killed another gay man since. He thinks it is his right. During the trial, one of the older female Swedish Nazis was there to support the young men. She was interviewed about it, and she said: We don´t see Homosexuals as people. We regard this as cleansing!

(To my horror I found out that she lived in Vadstena that I eventually moved to, after my retirement in 2016.  It is a town known for the saint The Holy Birgitta, churches and a convent for The Birgittine Nuns.

The Nazi, born 1928, still had a big portrait of Hitler in her home and she tried to invite young people to her home.  She eventually moved away in protest, because there was a Pride March in this little city. )

But back to 1990.

My part in the service was to read a poem, and I read it and finished by mentioning all the men I had known that had passed away in HIV/AIDS. They were so many that I forgot some of them.

Death is nothing at all

I have only slipped away into the next room

I am I and you are you

Whatever we were to each other

That we are still

Call me by my own familiar name

Speak to me in the easy way you always used

Put no difference into your tone

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed

At the little jokes we always enjoyed together

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me

Let my name be ever the household word that it always was

Let it be spoken without effort

Without the ghost of a shadow in it

Life means all that it ever was

There is absolute unbroken continuity

What is death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind

Because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you for an interval

Somewhere very near

Just around the corner

All is well.

Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918),





Richard Locke – A Swirling Dervish! A Whirling Dervish!

I was hoping I could do this work in a chronological order, but things happen, so I will improvise now and then.

Since I wrote my previous post, I got in touch with Richard Locke´s brother, Robert ”Bob” Locke, who is an actor and an author. We had met in 2014, when told me about Richard and took me to his grave.

I asked Robert to correct me if something was wrong, and he pointed out that it is called Whirling Dervish, but he wrote: ”But I rather prefer Swirling Dervish, because that is so like what Richard might have said.”, so I don´t change it.

When I interviewed Richard in 1987 – and that was a wild interview that I will write about later – he told me that AIDS was behind him… He had become an activist, trying to smuggle medicines from Mexico. He wanted to fight, he wanted to raise hell, and become a Swirling Dervish!

Robert Locke has written an interesting and moving text about his brother, and sent me this photo.

A Biographical Fragment of Robert and Richard Locke.”Robert Locke´s account of his brother Richard Locke´s struggle with AIDS.”:


Not better than a pimp…

During the summer of 1987, some drastic things happened to me.
I received a scholarship, so I could go to the US to interview people with AIDS, and that made me contact several organisations in New York and San Francisco, like People With AIDS Coalition in New York and SHANTI in San Francisco.

My mother died suddenly on June 30th, and although expected since childhood because of her substance abuse, it was shocking when it actually happened, and I was quite out of it for a while. But work has always helped me, so I concentrated on the upcoming journey. My mother was a journalist, so I pretended we now worked together, and I constantly talked to her.

I had worked in that graveyard in 1986, so when problems occurred with my mother´s ashes, I didn´t hesitate to pick her up at a crematorium (in a forest – that was creepy!) and spread the ashes myself. The wind twisted and turned while I was doing it, so I came away from that experience with ashes actually all over me.

I came to the US with a Letter of Recommendation from RFSL, the gay movement in Sweden, and names of people I had been told to contact.
I had already made contact with Missionaries of Charity that had a hospice in Greenwich Village for people with AIDS, Gift of Love, and Bailey House that helped people with AIDS on low income – they still do. I had also contacted Hale House in Harlem, because I really wanted to meet Mother Hale, who took in babies with AIDS.

Visiting New York turned out to be rather overwhelming. I was not prepared for what was to happen. What I will write about took place during two or three days.

Meeting Mother Hale, or Clara McBride Hale, was very nice. She was rather old then, born 1905, and she did not say much, but I was happy to have met this good person, who took in more than 1000 children until her health declined. Unwanted children, crack babies, children with HIV/AIDS. When praised, even by President Reagan, she said that she just loved children.
I was shown the day care center, and she told me that they did not test the children for HIV, they just assumed they had the virus, because their parents were either sick or dead.
She introduced me to her daughter, Dr. Lorraine Hale who was a co founder of Hale House, and also worked there. She really surprised me, when I told her about my work, and what I wanted to do, by asking, as in disbelief: Do you touch them?!
To this day I wonder, if it was so dangerous, how she could let her mother do the work she did?

There is a lot to tell about Dr Hale and what happened after the death of Mother Hale in 1992, but this is not the place. One can Google about it. 

I had been in contact with Mother Superior at Gift of Love in Greenwich Village, and I was invited to visit, but when I came there I was stopped just inside the door, by a very angry nun. Who was I? What did I want?
Mother Superior was out of town, and I could not prove we had been in contact, so I just had to leave.

Sal Licata, a well known AIDS activist in New York told me about Gift of Love. He said it was actually an alternative prison for people with AIDS. They lived and died there.

I should write something about the people I write about. So many of them have died, and I would forever be writing the late Sal Licata, the late … so I have decided not do that, their passing will come up eventually.

A more positive visit was at the office of People With AIDS Coalition. They had a little house in a garden, and I spent some hours there, helping out by folding papers and putting them into envelopes, and then I watched a makeup artist teach a man with AIDS how to cover the Kaposis Sarcoma lesions on this face.

I was invited to visit a hospital in the Bronx, The Albert Einstein Medical Center, where they treated children with AIDS. The nurse that had invited me was very serious when I came. I had to leave all my belongings in her locker, and she searched me, to make sure I did not bring a camera with me.

I was to meet a child with AIDS, and she brought me in to a rather dark room, where a little black boy sat alone in a crib. I do not know if that was where he slept, or if he was placed there for me to see him.
The suspicion that I had a camera stashed away somewhere on me, was palpable, but I had no camera with me. Was I allowed to hold him?

It is only for my inner eye, that I still see this little boy, alone in the crib.
I don´t remember if I touched him, I really hope I did, I just remember him standing up in the crib, wanting to have contact. It was the saddest moment.

The nurse told me that the children in the ward had never lived anywhere else. One good thing had happened, and that was that they had been given a van, so they could take the children out on trips.


My final meeting in New York, was at Bailey House in Greenwich Village. I was told that they took in people with AIDS on low income.

I had booked a meeting with a man called Dave.
I introduced my self and my idea and asked if he could help me meet someone with AIDS, to interview. But, his reaction to what I said was dramatic.
No, he told me. Nothing I said was true. He angrily told me that I was a user, and that he would not be better than a pimp, if he helped me, and I better be on my way. Trying to reason with him, was impossible.

I somehow managed to get out of that office, in tears, and after all this, I knew I would not be able to do any work in New York.

But why did all this happen?
The press had been trying aggressively to get glimpses of people with AIDS, even children with AIDS.
Sal Licata told me that People Magazine had lured a woman with AIDS, at Bailey House, and had taken photos of her in the bath etcetera. And there had probably been other things happening.

But this was the final straw for me, and I left for San Francisco, thinking it might be different there.

Before I left for the US, I had seen two documentaries about AIDS in San Francisco. I had specifically noticed three people that I hoped to meet:
the former Mormon, John Lorenzini, the Head nurse at the AIDS Ward Alison Moëd, and the porn star Richard Locke who created parties at the AIDS Ward together with a woman called Rita Rockett. And I did.

I did not know what to do…

I have realised that I have to go back and forth between what happened years ago, and what happens now.

Tomorrow I will speak for a group of HIV positive people at the Posithiva Gruppen/The Posithive Group in Stockholm, and tell them about my work in Sweden and in San Francisco, between 1986 – 2018.

The first time I spoke for that specific group was in 1992. I had been back and forth to San Francisco, following up interviews from 1987, and I was going to tell them about the people that I had interviewed.

But as I stood there, it struck me that most of the people I had spoken to in San Francisco had since then died, and that the men sitting in front of me… I just froze for a while, and then I almost jumped from the subject, and started talking about the Names Project. I had brought fabric and pen´s with me, and suggested that they should do a Panel for their friends that had passed away, and they immediately started. Now that I think about it, they may have frozen too.

They called it Lovers and Friends, Sweden. 

The two men holding the Panels were Tommy Ek and Calle Andersson, a couple. Very nice people, and a great support. (The less organized Panel is mine, and it includes both Swedish and American names. )

Tommy, who stands alone, became very depressed at times, and he was saved from several suicide attempts. He was really very depressed, also losing his sight so he could not paint, but suddenly he had a desperate burst of hope, because of DNCB; A chemical used in the development of color photographs, that for a while was thought to stop HIV if  you painted it on your body. A Swedish man with HIV, Mats Ernmark, living in San Francisco, came to Sweden to promote it, and he was very convincing.

The idea was that this easy way to cure HIV had been silenced by the big Pharmaceutical companies, because it was so cheap and they would lose money. 

I think hope made it work for a while, but in the end both Mats and Tommy passed away, both in 1994.

Calle was later struck with a number of diseases; expressive aphasia, brain damage and paralysis on one side. He only saw two colors, green and red, and the nurse that took care of him, said that he was lonely in his brain.  He died about a year after Tommy, in 1995.

But back to the Panel making:

When we had made the Panels, they were sent Express, Door-to Door, to Washington, DC, and one of the volunteers found them, so they were part of the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, in 1992.

Tomorrow I will speak for a group of HIV positive people, I don´t know if there are any long time survivors among them, but after all those years, the situation is quite different from when I stood there, not knowing what to do.  I will tell them this story.









Some words, while I recover…

I was going to write a piece about my attempts to talk to people in New York in 1987, but I´m sick in a mixture of asthma, allergy and very strong Granchild-germs.

But I want to leave you with some words, that have been on my mind lately.

I think it was in 2014, that my friend, the late Michael Crisp, seen here, took to me the  National Aids Memorial Grove in San Francisco, where names of the dead are engraved in circles.

He showed me a poem by the late Thom Gunn, that is also engraved in the monument:

Walker within this circle pause
Although they all died of one cause
Remember how their lives were dense
With fine compacted difference


When Angels smile…

A little bit more about the name of my blog.

When I came to San Francisco in 1987, I met Gary Shepard. He was one of the ”Emotional Support volunteers” at SHANTI.
Before I met him, I spoke to another volunteer  who turned out to be HIV positive, and he really admired Gary because of his commitment to his clients, and said that if he got sick, he would like Gary to be there with him, as a volunteer.

I interviewed Gary about his work, and he told me about some of his clients. I want to tell you about one of them, Ed, because even I met him, at Coming Home Hospice, in the Castro District in San Francisco.

Ed had dementia and could no longer speak, but the could do two things; smoke and smile.
He was lying in his bed smoking, skinny arms and legs protruded from the white sheets. He was not to be left alone while smoking, so there was always someone with him when he smoked. Even I, who was a smoker at the time, spent some time with him when I visited Coming Home Hospice.
But that was not the only reason why people entered his room, they came because of his smile. If I should try to liken it to something I would use  words like angelic and Infinite goodness, and you wanted to be smiled at like that, over and over again, it was almost addictive.
When Ed was dying he was given Oxygen, and Gary told me that Ed moved his hand, slowly, back and forth, back and forth, as if he was still smoking. Gary stayed with him until a few hours before his death, but as soon as Gary came home, they called from the hospice and said that Ed had passed away.

Ed in his bed.

In the photo under this there is man in the bed – I saw having extreme hallucinations. He was a nurse at San Francisco General Hospital.

Gary talked about his work as a volunteer. He described himself as a witness to the suffering of his clients. If no one saw what they were going through, it would be meaningless. I liked those words, and decided that my work was to be called To be a witness, since I am also, or was, a witness.
Many years passed, and there was and is, a silence around HIV/AIDS, and when my book about what I had seen in Sweden came, I called it Det är få som talar om dem/ There are few who talk about them.

When I had decided to write a blog about what I had seen in San Francisco and Oakland, I searched the Internet for the words To be a witness, but often found religious pages, religious testimonies, so I added the word really, and that worked: To really be a witness. To really see, to really hear.

Gary and Ed are just a few of the people I want to write about. I was lucky enough to meet so many teachers during this time; clients, lovers and family members, volunteers and hospital staff, that I followed, for as long as it was possible.

I want to end by saying that Gary, that we will hear more about in the blog, kept Ed´s ashes in his home for four months, when he, together with a friend of Ed´s, spread his ashes under the Golden Gate Bridge.

In my own family…

I come from a Pentecostal background in Sweden, and I have always admired and sometimes envied my family for their very strong Faith and their trust in the Lord.

But I have met resistance against my work, from some family members, both in Sweden and in the US. That has surprised me because of the families missionary work, in Africa for example.  But the resentment has had to do with homosexuality.
My favorite old aunt called and warned me, not only for the sake of my soul, but also because she was afraid I would hurt the family. The only thing that could save a person, she said, was salvation,

Even my old foster mother was against it, so when I refused to quit, she did not want to have contact with me for a year.
However, two things made her change her mind; the sudden death of my biological mother, and the fact that Sighsten Herrgård, the famous model and designer, came out as having AIDS. He was friends with members of the Royal family, and that certainly helped. One of the princesses, Princess Christina, appeared with him on television.

When I came to San Francisco in 1987, and met some of my family members, it turned out to be very upsetting for some of them that I was there to interview people with HIV/AIDS. Why would I do that?!
I tried to explain, and talk about how sick people were and about how ostracized many were, and… But I could not get through to them, and they decided to leave. There was one exception: One relative cried and held my hand under the table.

I was not in contact with those family members for about ten years, until one of them apologized, blaming his behavior to lack of knowledge about contagion. His old mother was present at the time, and he had stopped me from hugging her, or even shaking her hand when we said goodbye, and I never saw her again. Nor did I see my favorite old aunt, her sister,  in Sweden again, she wold not let me in to her house on my return to Sweden, and she passed away a few years after that.

Many years passed, and Facebook came, and I became friends again with two of the people that had been in that difficult meeting, and with several other family members from Canada and the Los Angeles area, like my cousin Billy.

One day Billy asked me why I posted so much about HIV and AIDS on my Facebook page; links to SF AIDS Foundation, SHANTI and Open hand, etcetera. I told him about my work, and then he wrote:

My daughter died of AIDS.

I couldn´t have been more surprised. Someone in our family had died of AIDS… and I had never heard about it. Her name was Shannon. She was 25 years old when she died, in 2002.

Billy had suddenly received a phone call that his daughter was sick, and would be coming on a plane to Los Angeles. She was a travelling sales person, and there were long periods when she did not see Billy and his wife Sharon.
He went to the airport, and saw when she got off the plane that she looked sick, and that she had lost a lot of weight.
Shannon had had some kind of seizures and was taken to hospital, where it was discovered that she was HIV-positive, but also that she had actually developed AIDS.

Shannon Georgi.  First cousin once removed. (I think it s called.)

Billy have friends that are gay, and they helped him get in touch with an AIDS clinic so that she could start Antiretroviral treatment.
Sharon and Billy took care of her, and they tried to help her gain weight and strength, but one day Sharon called Billy at work and said he had to come immediately, because Shannon was having new seizures and the ambulance was on its way.
The ambulance was still there when he arrived, he ran into it and told Shannon that they would be coming right after. She said Daddy, it will be alright, and then the ambulance left.

But on the way to the hospital Shannon had a massive heart attack, and died, so when Billy and Sharon arrived at the hospital, they were just informed of her death and taken to her body. This was three weeks after she had come home.

Billy wants me to talk about this, to make people understand that this can happen to everyone, not only to certain groups. Shannon had no idea that she was HIV- positive, she only thought it looked good that she was losing weight.

Billy took me to her grave in 2014.

Some of the people in the Swedish book…

When I came to San Francisco, somebody taught me the words:

How to do AIDS.

People really ”did AIDS” in different ways. I know of people who almost immediately arranged for their funerals, whereas others totally ignored the virus, and concentrated on something else. I was told about a man in San Francisco, who had bought one of the Victorian houses. His last phone call in life was about a specific detail in the houses´s wood.

Here are some people in Sweden, that did it in different ways, some were People with AIDS, others worked with People with AIDS:

Benny Henriksson

A man I knew, sociologist Benny Henriksson, kept on working at the hospital, in his room. He actually got his Ph.D, in the hospital bed, about a week before he died, and he continued to work on an article he wanted to complete. In his obituary the author´s wrote that the hospital staff patiently climbed over wires to his computers and printer. And what did he write about? Other people with HIV. His doctoral thesis was called: Risk factor love: homosexuality, sexual interaction and HIV prevention.

Kerttu Sturesson

I have interviewed an assistant nurse, Kerttu Sturesson, who from the start completely gave her life to work with people with HIV/AIDS and was really praised for it. Kerttu said that the worst day of her life, was the day she had to retire.
One of the stories she told me, was about a man who had just been told he had HIV by someone else in the hospital. He stopped for a moment in her doorway, and said: I am going to kill myself, and then walked away in a haste. She got up, ran after him, stopped him, brought him back to her room, talked to him, and that man is still alive today.

Leif Larsson and Krister Pettersson

Leif Larsson, a nurse, working specifically with HIV/AIDS, told me about the many silent suicides that took place, where gay men with HIV just removed themselves from the face of the earth, leaving no letters, no explanations, nothing.

Leif Larsson.

Leif became involved with funerals, together with Krister Pettersson, an undertaker, because people were treated badly. Noone had thought about informing the undertakers about HIV/AIDS – and they were very scared.

And not only them, but the whole chain of people that were involved with Death; from the people picking up the body from the home or the hospital, to the autopsy technicians, that out of fear of being infected with HIV by the needles, would not sew the bodies together after autopsy – so the bodies were just placed in black Body Bags – to the undertakers that did not want to open those Body Bags to dress the bodies, or to let the families see… The list goes on and on.

Leif and Krister gathered most of the Funeral homes to a meeting, to inform them about HIV/AIDS. Some refused to come.

One of the stories in the book is about a young man called Pontus. His brain would swell up and press against his skull and he was in a lot of pain, so he sometimes had to call for an ambulance. Since he was so young, the ambulance team would become suspicious, and ask him in a very sarcastic way, if he had AIDS too.
When Pontus had died at home, his family had arranged his body and placed flowers in his hands, but when the men came to take him away, they just let him fall down on the stretcher, like a sack of potatoes, so his arms and legs fell out on the sides. Pontus´s mother, cried when she told me about this final humiliation of a young man who had just turned 25.

Krister Pettersson, became very much involved with HIV/AIDS and together with many of the young men that knew that they were going to die, he created wonderful funerals. He said they taught him a lot because they were often very creative people.
For example, he worked with one of the young men in the hospital, visiting him on the AIDS ward and they had put together a program of wonderful music and Krister thought that they should listen to it, almost like a dress rehearsal. But the young man died, before they could do it.

Leif Larsson established a hospice outside of the center of Stockholm; Maria Regina Hospice, and put a lot of effort into it. I suddenly found out that he had died – he had told very few people that he had the virus. He died at home, in the presence of his mother, his partner and a Catholic priest. The person that took his body away, was Krister Pettersson.

Ulla Britt Persson

I often saw a woman in one of the hospitals where there was an AIDS Ward, Roslagstull. She had black hair, make-up, jewelry, and she wore a black leather jacket, high heeled shoes and a clerical collar, as she was a priest in the Church of Sweden.
I did not know anything about Ulla Britt, but she was so different from other priests.

Ulla Britt Persson.

Ulla Britt´s son, Johan, died of AIDS in that hospital. On her visits to Johan, she met many men with AIDS. Ulla Britt would go around in the evenings and visit, and pray with them if they wanted to. She conducted the burials of many of these men.

Ulla Britt´s son Johan had been studying Theology, and he had been seeing a priest, the priest that would later bury him.

When Johan passed away, Ulla Britt was approached by a doctor who wanted to do an autopsy on him for science and she said no: He has been used enough. The doctor replied, You know we can do it without your consent? She still said no.

Ulla Britt knew what would happen, so she traveled with her son´s body together with Krister Pettersson, the undertaker, to the morgue. She covered her sons body with roses, locked the coffin, and kept the key, and to this day she still has it.

Ulla Britt knew that Johan had gotten the virus from the priest that buried him, and it was a difficult situation. The priest eventually became very sick, and he kept calling Ulla Britt in the evenings. His mind was going and he asked her to sing for him, over and over again.

One day Ulla Britt was approached by a friend of the priest, who said that he couldn´t diehe needed her to forgive him, he needed absolution. She said she would think about it, but he suddenly died, before she could visit him.

After my book was published, she told me this story:
Before he was buried, she went to the morgue. She said he was so small and thin, and looked so cold in the coffin – she wished she had brought him a blanket. She forgave him when she was standing there.

The priest had no family and is buried next to his cat that had died some time before him. He had buried the cat in the plot he knew he would soon be buried in. They rest next to the church that he worked in.

Rolf Veidahl

I finally want to tell you about Rolf Veidahl, a Norwegian man, living in Sweden. He was a warm teddy bear of a man, who totally baffled me by telling me that he had really struggled to get AIDS.

Rolf Veidahl.

Rolf had a very self-destructive side to him. It had to do with sexual humiliation, with emphasis on humiliation. He strove to be infected with the virus, over and over again, and he exposed him self to many difficult things, dangerous encounters with men for example.

I was stunned, and did not know what to do with this information. In the end, I sent him the interview, writing that I felt that our interview was part of the humiliation that he exposed him self to, and that I had no idea how to use the interview. He wrote back that he understood.

Sometime after that, I saw Rolf in one of the hospitals when I was visiting another man. After that visit I asked Rolf if we could talk, and we talked for hours. He had become aware of what he had done to himself, how extremely self- destructive it was, and I saw an opportunity for us to talk again and he agreed. We set up several meetings, but he cancelled or did not show up and then I lost contact with him.

I had by this time changed my own life pretty dramatically. I was working full time in a Museum Library, I was taking care of my son, was working on several books, and kept in touch with the people I had met in San Francisco.

One day I was visiting an art gallery and a friend of mine said that Rolf was there, but I could not see him. She had to point him out to me, and I just stood there… looking at him.
I had heard that Rolf had started psychoanalysis. He was always good looking, but in front of me stood one of the most beautiful men I had ever seen. He had lost a lot of weight, his beard was gone, and I just couldn´t believe it was him. There he was, an extremely good looking, long time, survivor.

But, things were to happen. One day we spoke briefly on the phone, and Rolf told me that he had been diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer, and had one to three months to live. I really hoped there would be time to talk, but again, I lost contact with him. He moved to another part of Sweden.
One day I saw his death notice in the paper. I just stared at it, I couldn´t take it in, but there could only be one Rolf Veidahl.

Rolf had not died as the doctors had predicted, it seems like the Antiretrovirals had an effect on the cancer, so he lived until 2013 and even celebrated his 60th birthday with his friends. Rolf was at that time, rather weak and lost one ability after the other.

Rolf´s friends invited him to Mallorca. His best friend and husband, Niklas, told me that they helped him out in the water – he was very thin at the time, walking with crutches. Niklas remembered Rolf looking out over the water and the landscape, taking it all in, for the last time.

Niklas told me that Rolf changed a lot during the last years. His sexuality, that had really driven him was calmer. It didn´t eat him, as Niklas put it. The psychoanalysis had helped him a lot, and one of the last things Rolf asked Niklas to do, was to call the analyst and tell him how much he had meant to Rolf.

In the end, Rolf welcomed death. He was in severe pain because of the Pancreatic cancer. He was prescribed a lot of Morphine, so he slowly, slowly moved into death with his sister and Niklas by his side.

The next time I write a post, it will be about how HIV/ AIDS has affected my own family.

The Back Cover… and Words of Gratitude.

The Back Cover – I can´t get a good photo of it, so I present it like this instead.

I was present at the first display of The Quilt, in Washington 1987, and the photo is taken by me.

I had made three Panels, two of them were present, but not yet sewn on to the Quilt.

The one for Matti however, was in the Quilt and in the poster for THE NAMESPROJECT : A National AIDS Memorial. ( The poster has lost some of it´s color through the years.) You find the Panel in the middle, to the left.

Matti was the first person I met with Kaposis Sarcoma. He was absolutely covered by it, especially his face. He was a young man from Finland, living in Sweden with his partner Mikael.

Some of the people in this blog come back in other posts, like Matti, in the post Matti… and the lesions. 

The other Panels were for Peter C. – the man whose ashes I helped bury – and for Roar, a Norwegian man living in Sweden, and as far as I know, the first man who died of AIDS in Sweden. I knew him and his former partner Sighsten Herrgård – who was a well known model and designer – and the first famous person in Sweden to come out as having AIDS, in 1987.

We later made a Panel for him as well.

The text on the Back Cover says it was a senseless time, when so many died, often after long suffering. The Antiretroviral drugs changed people´s lives dramatically, but they unfortunately came too late for most of the HIV positive people in my work.

I am not sure people today know what it was like during those difficult years. I certainly did not know how totally wasted a body can be that has a very low or no immune system. One seldom hears about this now, and one seldom hears about the people that died.

I write about the gratitude I feel for the people in the book, for letting me follow them, and I thank their relatives, lovers and friends for all of their help with the book, and hope that we, together, do good by publishing the book.

Inside the book I thank some people, especially the late doctor Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and Peter Månehall, Ombudsman for HIV-Sweden, who both encouraged my work.

I am very grateful for the work of the late Randy Shilts, (I am aware of the Patient Zero controversy) whose book I have read several times. During all those years, in times of doubt, I have only had to put my hand on, And The Band Played On, to continue.

Another help – as strange as that may sound – has been the many many obituaries in Bay Area Reporter, often sent to me by my friend, Ann Soucy, who worked there at the time.
I have read them over and over again, looking for information about (mostly) the men; their lives and interests; who was with them when they died; how was their passing described, and what charities were people asked to donate to, in memory of them.

I want to end this post by quoting one of the obituaries, from January 21st 1993, about a man called David.

Didn´t like charity.
In his memory,
make a friend, share a drink
adopt a stray.
We love you Davey.