On this day, June 13, 1989, Luis Palacios-Jimenez died of AIDS.
Luis and his partner, Dennis Costa were heroes. Luis for his professional and volunteer work at GMHC, Dennis for taking care of Luis.
Luis facilitated 800 Men, the first workshop designed to change men’s behaviors to safer sex practices, sponsored by GMHC. Naive.
Luis also facilitated the first support groups for KS (Kaposi Sarcoma) patients. Groups of 10–12 would gather every week. Within a couple of weeks, half of the group would be dead. There were two schools of thought on how to handle this attrition. One was to keep the individual groups together until there was no one left. The other was to combine the groups as numbers dwindled. The latter was adopted, in part to maximize capacity, for patients were arriving daily and desperately seeking services. So every couple of weeks, groups merged together. This went on and on, and still the requests outnumbered the available spaces. Said one patient,
You know, this is no disease for sissies …
Eventually, Luis came down with PCP (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia). This was when the fight was against infections. The virus was not understood yet. PCP took weeks to recover from, if you did recover. So men like Luis would lie in hospital beds, tethered to poles dripping Bactrim, balancing between killing the infection and killing themselves or just wasting away. The common wisdom was that you didn’t survive PCP more than twice. Even if it worked, there were those who would refuse treatment a second or third time. It was worse than the disease.
But Luis was strong. Over a three-year period he went home from New York Hospital no less than three times. He was visited by Jessie McNab.
Jessie was a devout Anglican and curator of 18th Century Silver & Decorative Objects at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was also a witch, dowser and practitioner of Bach Flower Remedies, which she acquired from her native Scotland. She introduced me to the Findhorn Garden and once told me my life’s story based on my scribble on a scrap of paper. Delivering remedies was strictly forbidden in hospital, but she brought them anyway, to Luis and many others.
Luis told me this: “Jessie came to see me … She sat quietly for a while on my bed, staring at my face. Then she sat up straight and looked me in they eye and asked,
Are you ready to go?
I nodded. ‘I thought not … so let’s use this …’ She pulled out a vial from her bag of some tincture and put a couple of drops under my tongue. She came by every afternoon. Between the Bactrim and the Bach, I’m going home one more time.”
Graphics courtesy of the The New York Public Library, curator of GMHC Archives.