In the early 1990s, before the advent of the anti-retro viral cocktails that largely rendered HIV a treatable, chronic disease, I found myself at one of the many memorial services that punctuated those years.
In this case, the mourners included a group of children who, much too early in their young lives, were facing the reality of grief, the unforgiving fact of finality.
One of the children, a young girl with a beautiful voice, had never sung in public. But she knew the favorite song of the young man who had been lost, and the only reason she even considered singing My Funny Valentine was that she loved him and wanted to do it for him.
So she found a way.
She would sing the song, but she would turn her back to the assembled. She would share her voice, but not the sight of her tears.
She sang. And it was beautiful. She was beautiful.
It was still several years before the cocktail. The deluge of losses wasn’t close to being over. Courageous activists from Act-Up — the fearless, front line warriors in the battle against apathy and invisibility — were still struggling to wrench affordable drugs from stubborn pharmaceutical companies.
And on some dark days, there was only the voice of a little girl singing.