Sergio Anguiano - Stories from the Heart of the Grove
This story was written by Steve Sagaser, partner of the late Sergio Anguiano, as part of a collection of stories about lives touched by AIDS named, “Stories from the Heart of the Grove”.
I met Sergio Anguiano in the summer of 1991. We were both students attending UC Berkeley. He was 18 years old. I was just a few years older. Our lives were just beginning. That fall, after a few unusually severe illnesses, Sergio was diagnosed with AIDS. AIDS was just beginning its second decade, and effective treatment was not yet available.
Sergio was unable to disclose the nature of his illness with his family. A small group of friends, including me and our very dear friend Maria, began our commitment to become his full-time caregivers, backed by unconditional love. As his partner, this was both heart wrenching and terrifying. I believed that what I saw happening to him would next happen to me. But I knew at all times that I was exactly where I was meant to be, and I'm grateful to this day for having that sense of clarity.
Sergio's battle with AIDS was characterized by alternating periods of acute crisis, and short spurts of what he often joked were remission. During one period of remission, we flew to Los Angeles where his family still lived. While there, I met his five-year old nephew Daniel, a very sweet little boy whom Sergio adored. We took Daniel to Universal Studios for an afternoon before returning to Berkeley.
Sergio was 21 years old in 1993 when he succumbed to his battle with AIDS—in our apartment, in my arms. He had graduated from Berkeley with top honors just a couple of weeks before; a small ceremony in his hospital room organized by a few of his professors, surrounded by his family and as many close friends as we could fit in that small room. After his family returned for an informal scattering of his ashes in Bodega Bay, our favorite get-away location, I never heard from them again.
Although I was completely broken, I became immersed in my work, and in life, and the years passed.
Sixteen years later, a young man named Daniel called and left a message at work. He had found my name on the Internet. Daniel was now 21, but he remembered me from that day at Universal Studios when he was only five. He wanted to know more about his Uncle Sergio. Within months, Daniel came to visit. Today, I'm his "Uncle Steve." I'm so proud of that.
I engraved Sergio's name in the Grove's Circle of Friends a few years ago, and without telling me, Daniel and his mother had my name engraved next to Sergio's. Today, Sergio is a part of the Grove—surrounded by life, beauty, and the most wonderful people, all the time. His battle was dramatic and heroic, and when I think about him now I always smile. All these years later, memorializing Sergio in the Circle of Friends has continued my process of healing, and connecting to Daniel has brought me joy.