Every few months a small brown envelope drops through my letterbox and something lurches in my chest. Something like sadness, something like regret, something an awful lot like loss. I know what those envelopes mean. Their size, their deceptive lightness, the small piece of sellotape across the back that stops their news from sneaking out before it reaches its intended. I know that when I open it the words 'we regret to inform you... passed away... hospice... many of you knew her... for those that would like to attend... details will follow.' will escape from that envelope and permeate my heart, like a malignant cloud, and will follow me wherever I may go to try to excape.
Most of the time the names don't mean much to me, just another client of the charity I used to work for. Sometimes they ring a bell, a story I heard, an anecdote shared comes back to me. And twice those names have belonged to the mothers of children I used to work with, mothers who would open the door to me weekly and allow me to take their daughters by the hand and spend an afternoon with them in the cinema, at the zoo, in toy shops while they took the small chance they were given to have a rest. Daughters who are now parentless.
If an envelope were to drop through my door every time someone, somewhere dies from Aids I would receive over 5000 a day. If an envelope dropped through my door for every child everywhere that was orphaned to aids I would be the proud owner of over 20 million envelopes. As it is I just have my own small collection. Around a dozen names in my desk drawer, lost to a disease that is entirely preventable.
December 1st. World Aids Day. If nothing else, remember.