In 1992, David returns home from the hospital. Though very weak, he manages to visit Karen Finely’s Momento Mori installation at The Kitchen and bequeaths his baby elephant skeleton to the artist. He donates three photos by Peter Hujar to MoMA who also acquires ‘Fire’ from his The Four Elements show.
In the final months of David’s life, his partner Tom Rauffenbart takes loving care of David— arranging nursing care in his 2nd Avenue loft to make him as comfortable as possible. Tom welcomes David’s friends and family to spend time with him. They rally to help give Tom much needed respite. David lives to see the publication of his second memoir, Memories That Smell Like Gasoline, and holds the book in his hands.
David dies of HIV/AIDS-related illness at home, surrounded by friends and family, on July 22, 1992 at the age of 37. Weeks later, the political funeral he once envisioned for himself loops throughout the East Village. A memorial is held at St. Mark’s Church. And in October, 1996, Tom Rauffenbart scatters his ashes on the White House lawn as part of ACT UP’s Second Ashes Action.
Explore the images below to learn more about the last year of David’s life.