Assigned to write a school report, Amanda Kidd was ready. The 10-year-old wrote it straight from the heart.
"My mom died of AIDS. Her name was Cindy Jean Kidd. My mom died Jan. 17, 1996, at 6:16 p.m.," Amanda said, carefully reading the report aloud for the Deseret News."I came home from swim team and was waiting for my mom to get home from the hospital. She wanted to die in her bed at home with me and my brother Walter watching her, but she didn't. She died with my older sister. My sister is 20.
"She was in a van on her way coming home. She took two breaths and then passed away. She was about two blocks away from my house.
"The hospital people brought her in the house and put her in her bed . . . "Me and my brother went in the room to hug my mom even though she was dead. Each person in our family got a lock of hair. The hair was braided. Then the cremators - whatever they're called, mortuary (people) - came and took her away.
"I was mad and sad because I didn't want the mortuary to come and take her away because I wanted my mom to stay with me until I was at least a teenager, but I guess I don't always get my own way."
Amanda was able to express herself about such a traumatic and tragic loss because Cindy and her husband, Brian Kidd, had prepared the children to cope with the horror of AIDS and death.
Cindy and Brian were married only two months when she was diagnosed with the disease. Four years later, Cindy was dead at age 39.
In the meantime she had become one of Utah's leading AIDS activists.
She edited the Positive Press, a monthly newsletter for people who are HIV positive or have AIDS and others who are concerned about the disease. She and another woman sued to overturn a state law that banned the marriage of AIDS victims.
The suit wasn't symbolic, Brian Kidd said during an interview at the family's two-story brick home. "As far as the law was written, it would have made our marriage void - you know, automatic annulment whether you want it or not."
He spoke in a quiet, sad voice, leaning back in an easy chair, once or twice brushing away tears. Close above on the mantelpiece stood photos; a glass globe with a ribbon engraved on the surface, an award from the People With AIDS Coalition of Utah; a bronze-colored urn that held her ashes.
When Brian and Cindy were married, they didn't know she had AIDS or that the Utah Legislature had passed a law in 1987 that would invalidate the marriage of people with AIDS.
Later, Brian legally adopted Cindy's twins, Amanda and Walter. When they found out about the law, they felt the marriage had to be fully legal in order for the adoptions to be valid.
(Besides the twins, Cindy Kidd had a son, Michael Vincent, whom she placed for adoption in 1982, and a daughter, Beverly Stoddard, who was 20 when Cindy died.)
"It was really important for us," he said of the suit. "Actually, it was kind of fun, being able to go against the government and win. Go against the establishment and say, `Hey, that's not right.' "
In late 1993, U.S. District Judge Aldon J. Anderson ruled the AIDS law was unconstitutional. "Oh, we were both very excited about it. . . . It was a good victory."
Although it was hard to do, she quit her work with the Positive Press in May 1995 so she could spend time with the family and say goodbye.
The twins were getting counseling to help them understand and deal with her coming death. And Brian and Cindy helped them cope by being as honest as possible with them.
"We never held anything back," he said.
"Anytime there was any news that something was going good or bad or whatever, we always made sure we were upfront with the twins, that they knew everything that was going on."
That way, he said, they would not have to face any terrible surprises.
Not that her illness and death didn't wrack the entire family.
As Beverly wrote in her journal two days after her mother's death, "So if I was ever supposed to learn and fully understand pain - sadness, sorrow, hurt, anger, confusion . . . this is the time. I don't think I can put into words how incredibly bad I'm hurting inside."
During an interview nearly a month later, Walter sprawled on the floor addressing valentines for all the kids in his class. Amanda was busy coloring a valentine box, and as she talked she kept darkening more of the box with a black magic marker.
Asked what he misses most about Cindy, Walter said simply, "Her hugs."
In the last few months, he and his mother used to "just go up in her room and talk." They would discuss "what it would be like when she died: It'd be harder. It'd be kind of hard to go to school sometimes."
What did she tell him to do at those times? "Be strong," he said.
Also, his mother would take him out to eat "and we did fun stuff. . . . Like when she took me and my friends swimming."
His folks were always honest about it, he said. "When you asked, she would say what was going to happen."
Amanda recalled special outings with her mother. "When the boys went out to, like, games . . . she would let me pick some place I wanted (to visit for dinner). I picked Blimpie's."
Cindy used to give talks at high schools about the dangers of AIDS. "If she did even save one person, she accomplished what she was trying to do," Brian said.
He recalled that his wife's deterioration happened in steps. Every time she got sick, her health dropped a little further. When she recovered, she wasn't quite as well as she had been before.
"And she'd lose a lot of weight," he said. Despite trying as hard as she could to keep weight on, "she'd lose 10 pounds and gain eight."
Two or three weeks before the end, "she found out that her viral load was beginning to get really high and overpowering." Cindy heard of a new drug that sounded promising and wanted to try it.
She was checking on the possibility of taking the medication when her body failed.
"I think she was incredibly brave about the whole thing. . . . She spent most of her time trying to help other people that were also infected to try to make it easier on them to deal with it, and to try to make sure that even more people didn't get infected," he said.
At the hospital, Amanda was scared to see her "all hooked up to all the tubes." She was afraid to touch her at first, but then overcame her fears.
Finally, as Cindy lay dying and unable to talk, "she would squeeze my hand when I read to her," Amanda said.