Melbourne, VIC
615 St Kilda Rd Australian AIDS Memorial Quilt - Melbourne since 1 December 1989
World AIDS Day: Mother reunited with memorial quilt stitched for son lost to AIDS-related illness

Cheryl Olver says she was surprised she did not die the day after her son Daren did, given such a huge part of her heart was now missing. The 29-year-old passed away in 1994. He had lived with AIDS for the best part of a decade, but he caught a bug, Cryptosporidium, on holidays, and his body could not fight it.

World AIDS Day — held on December 1 every year — is always a tough one for her, but this year she will be reunited with a quilt panel she stitched in honour of Daren for the Australian AIDS memorial quilt. The quilt has been hidden away as a museum piece at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum. "You put such a lot of love in every stitch," she said. "He would've loved it. He would've loved the fact that some of his family members stitched parts of it." The panel featuring a baby and adult photo of Daren and a rainbow is now hanging in South Yarra's Positive Living Centre for tonight's yearly vigil.

John Hall from the Victorian Aids Council said a Victorian quilting chapter worked for 14 years to have the panel returned home. "The museum saw it as an artefact, an archival piece of history and I said, 'That's where we're different, we see this as a living document'," he said. "They said 'We're not denying access for the family to come to look at the quilt panel, there are now cheap airfares available'. "So I let that statement sit there heavily in the air, and I said, 'But don't you think the family have already paid the highest price possible with the death of their son?"

Ms Olver shook her head as she recalled how her choice of champagne silk showed up every little finger mark. It is a treasured handiwork she can now look at all the time. She will be lighting a candle tonight, as she does every year, to remember those who have died from AIDS-related diseases. She said she wished Daren's infection was more recent, because of the advent of antiretrovirals. "He possibly would still be alive, I would've loved to have seen my son grow into his middle age and further on," she said.

Ms Olver laughed remembering how stubborn he was, often not taking his medicine until it was too late. "I was a nervous wreck. He used to phone once a week and fill us in on what he was doing in London or wherever he happened to be, and he said 'I think I need my tablets'," she said. "I thought, 'I know this is illegal, you can't send these things overseas'. "So I got a Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate box, took some of the chocolates out — I probably ate them — hid the tablets, the medication, under the foil and all that stuff. "I mean, a five-year-old could've found it. "I was expecting a knock on the door from Customs asking me what in the hell I was doing. "But you do anything for your children don't you?"

Photo (c) ABC

1 December 2015
Rachael Brown, Melbourne