Woman Immortalizes Brother Who Died Of AIDS

by Steph Stainback

So I’m Stephanie from Santa Cruz and this is my brother Gary. He lived in San Francisco and didn’t find out until late in the story that he had AIDS and at that point they didn’t have the cocktail out that would prolong his life and so once he found out it was really wrenching for my family. So you know we went up we took care of him for the last six months or so of his life and you know I mean it was devastating for our family to go through that.

I grew up playing football and my brother grew up playing with dolls it was absurd. My parents’ heads were reeling. It was just ridiculous. That’s what I remember, you know? That we could tell each other anything and understand each other’s experience. And that I miss him. There’s a huge gaping wound in our family. And it never… you know, the pain, the crying and all that… it usually passes but you know the hole that’s left because of his absence never passes. This is the same day that pride happens in Santa Cruz so you know my day is that I get up and I pack a billion gallons of Iced Tea and my chair and my sunscreen and I go to pride then I often march in the parade, today I didn’t today I watched the parade but it’s a beautiful day in Santa Cruz, it’s a really sweet day. And then I jump in my car and race up here and I’m usually here by noon and the first riders generally are just starting to come in and it’s like every single one of them, i’ll be here until the last rider comes through, and I don’t know when that is… sometimes i’m able to figure out the sweep and sometimes I’m not but it’s usually 6, 6:30. It’s really important to be here for the people that come in late because they’re the people that need support the most.

You know it’s hard to have time to really remember him and have time and space to remember him and so this is where I do that, you know this is where I come every year to be surrounded by people that understand what this is, you know, and why it’s so important. So this is my way of keeping him alive. And every time someone even just looks at his picture I know that there is part of him that is going to go on the ride with them. And that is really important, because that’s the part of him that stays alive, there’s my family and there’s this. And so Gary is alive because of people like this. It’s a sweet thing, and then I put a black bag over this sign so it doesn’t get degraded by light and I put him away for one more year and wait for next year. So that’s what my day looks like and it’s a beautiful thing.

Sharing your story can change someone's life. Interested in learning more?