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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

On Fridays we bring you moments from an oral history project, StoryCorps. And this morning's story takes us back 20 years to a time when Americans were just becoming aware of the disease called AIDS. It was a time before anybody would have imagined the need for a Worlds AIDS Day, which was observed this week. In 1985, Tom Ward died of AIDS. He was 40 years old. Recently his older sister, Mary Caplan, went to a StoryCorps booth in New York City to remember him, and here she recalls bringing him home from the hospital for the last time.

Ms. MARY CAPLAN: My children were there. We all took care of him. I promised him I wouldn't leave the room, so they used to bring me up sandwiches and things. And I found myself, like I did with my children, singing lullabies, and I sang "Tura Lura Lural" to him one time, and I was so off-key and when I finished, I kissed his forehead and I said, `I'm sorry. I know that wasn't very good.'

And I never left him, and then I had to go to the bathroom. And I came back, he wasn't breathing, and he was dead. And I felt so alone at that time in my grief, because I never knew how people were going to respond when I said, you know, Tom died. `Oh, what'd he die of?' `Oh, AIDS.' `Oh, well, you know, maybe he should have died,' or `Maybe that's God's way.'

And one day I went into a card shop and there was a gay young man, and I was buying a sympathy card--yet another sympathy card. And I said, `I take care of my brother's friend. My brother died of AIDS,' and I said it in a whisper. He said, `You don't have to whisper to me.' And he came around the counter and he hugged me and I didn't know him, but I loved him.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: That's Mary Caplan, remembering her brother Tom Ward, who died of AIDS.

StoryCorps has two mobile booths traveling the country. Right now one is in Las Vegas and the other is in Gulfport, Mississippi. To learn how you can participate in StoryCorps and have your interview archived at the Library of Congress, visit npr.org.

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