The early days of AIDS
December 28, 2018 8:01 PM   Subscribe

“Ruth Coker Burks cared for hundreds of dying people, many of them gay men who had been abandoned by their families. She buried more than three dozen of them herself, after their families refused to claim their bodies. For many of those people, she is now the only person who knows the location of their graves.” From OUT
posted by HuronBob (10 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Wow - what a remarkable woman, and what a beautiful kindness she offered to so many in the darkest of times. I clicked through to the fundraising campaign mentioned at the end of the story to clean up the cemetery and establish a memorial - and it was closed with over twice the requested amount already taken in - so yay to all those folks for donating.

I don’t believe in fate - but inheriting 262 cemetery plots seems like just a bit of a cosmic setup here...
posted by inflatablekiwi at 8:33 PM on December 28, 2018 [15 favorites]

I'm not ashamed to say I cried all the way through the article. She sounds like a really good person.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:40 PM on December 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

This is when I started to cry:
While Burks got to see the worst of people, she said, she was also privileged to see people at their best, caring for their partners and friends with selflessness, dignity, and grace. She said that’s why she’s been so happy to see gay marriage legalized all over the country.

“I watched these men take care of their companions and watch them die,” she said. “I’ve seen them go in and hold them up in the shower. They would hold them while I washed them. They would carry them back to the bed. We would dry them off and put lotion on them. They did that until the very end, knowing that they were going to be that person before long. Now, you tell me that’s not love and devotion? I don’t know a lot of straight people who would do that.”

And thank you, Ruth.
posted by darkstar at 8:49 PM on December 28, 2018 [24 favorites]

This woman is a real life angel. Tears, so many tears.
posted by Jubey at 8:50 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

She was interviewed for Storycorps a few years ago. I strongly recommend listening to her. A lot of the stories she tells are the same as this article, but hearing her tell them is something else. Thinking of her compassion is an instant ugly-cry for me. Love her.
posted by lilac girl at 10:25 PM on December 28, 2018 [8 favorites]

Ruth Coker Burks, like John Lewis, may be an actual bodhisattva. I am in awe of such compassion.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:40 AM on December 29, 2018 [10 favorites]

I'm not a religious person, and I've never had this thought before, but as I was reading that I could only think that this woman should be sanctified. That, or get the Nobel Peace Prize or something. What an absolutely incredible person.
posted by gkhan at 6:58 AM on December 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

One of the people interviewed in We Were Here talked about how, in the pre-AIDS era, whenever the San Francisco lesbian community members approached the gay community members with a proposal that they work together to fundraise or take political action or anything of the sort, the gay men always promptly and curtly brushed them off. Then came the AIDS crisis, to which the lesbian community immediately responded by mobilizing and organizing to an incredible extent. They raised money, they lobbied the government for research and medical care resources, and they nursed and visited and cared for the community of stricken gay men like a tireless army of mothers and sisters. The gay men of San Francisco felt terribly ashamed of themselves for the way they had treated the lesbian community, and were awed and humbled by the generous and loving way they came through for them when they were in crisis.

I suppose quite a number of those women could have a similar article written about them.
posted by orange swan at 1:12 PM on December 29, 2018 [11 favorites]

I’ve read her story several times… what an amazing lady. There aren’t many people I reckon deserve being called “righteous”, but I think she does.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 1:46 PM on December 29, 2018

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