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By Aless Piper

October 8, 2012

I am so sorry it's taken me so long to write. September is fondly remembered as the month in which I got nothing done ... well, except for what I get paid to get done, and, of course, fundraising.

Which my team, Flaming Red, did phenomenally at, but more on that later this month.

Today being October 8, I am currently celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving which is kind of fitting, and it has officially been fifteen years since I met Edward, in the course of a school project. If memory serves, October 8, 1997 was a beautiful, sunny, autumnal day. One of those ordinary days, on which you don't think anything very extraordinary is going to happen.

Ten years later I interviewed him, and at that time I asked -- assuming every experience teaches us something, what has being HIV-positive taught you? His response? "Humility, strength, courage, fear, hatred, pride."

N.B. If you're wondering why I don't just surrender the whole damn interview, it's because I'm not actually a fan of it. I like his answers, so I use them. But surely I could have thought of better questions.

This year we went for lunch at a cosy Italian place I picked for the dessert menu (at his request). Hopefully we will do this lunch thing again, maybe surrounding the world premiere of the Awake and Alive Project (more on the later too).

I've been doing a lot of thinking (not so much writing!) about this fifteen-year thing. Starting in January I had the song I Just Want to Celebrate by Rare Earth playing on loop at random intervals in my mind. Today as I started thinking about writing and then, of course, actually writing, I couldn't help reflecting on how perfect that song is, or more specifically, the first lines "I just want to celebrate another day of livin', I just want to celebrate another day of life ... " In all honesty, I don't actually know the rest of the song, which is probably caused by listening to one too many Hallmark musical birthday cards.

But for someone who seems to be meditating on a theme for her World AIDS Day posts (see my piece "More Life", and my piece on "people living with, not dying from disease") there is no more perfect song to invoke for this, than those first lines.

So, at the risk of cementing my reputation as a very sentimental person, what have I learned in fifteen years?

A lot about being true to myself, no matter what anyone might say. To stay away from AIDS movies -- he really had a point in 1997, I watched Philadelphia once and haven't been able to watch it all the way through since. (I do, however, recommend Playing By Heart, Angels in America, and, of course, Rent.) More about not judging. That friends, like those on my awesome Walk team I can't wait to tell you about, and activism are not mutually exclusive. To stand up for what I believe in. That I am stronger than I think I am. And even more that I can't articulate.

Finally, one of my favorite e-mails from Edward is actually fairly recent. In it he related that he had invited his dad to read "The Beginning", my first piece for this crazy (a term I use with nothing but love) blog.

Beneath his message is his dad's. The saying that comes closest to the contents of that is an old Chinese proverb that says "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."

Edward thanked me for the candles, and I, I hope, e-mailed back that I could not do it without him or something similar. If I didn't, you read it here first.

I have devoted a huge chunk of this year to teaching people how to claim their power as activists. With the internet, it is easier than ever before.

I want to close this, by first saying I am so grateful to all of you who have tagged along on this crazy (there's that word again!) journey thus far, I hope you're in it for the long run, because I am. And, I want to invite you to help us light candles, and to quote Gandhi, "be the change you want to see in the world."

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