In June I wrote of my trip to Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan "in search of my father". It was a spiritual quest, a journey of enlightenment, reconciliation, peace. And while I found little evidence of my father in that place, I felt his spirit on my journey and found many answers I had been seeking, within me.
When my father passed away over 16 years ago, he was cremated. Not a man given to ceremony, he insisted there be no marker, no burial site where those who loved him could visit. Being a man of rigid conviction and strident voice, we listened. After his memorial service (there will be no mass said for me, my father had insisted) we cast his ashes into the bay in a place he loved. A bagpiper played Amazing Grace and we stood on the pier, feeling the swell of the waters beneath us and said good-bye.
In life, my middle sister was 'the obedient one' while I was known as 'the rebel', or, as I was often called, 'the brat'. It was in my father's passing my sister became, 'the rebel'. She could not fathom not having a place marker for our father's passing. "We should put a plague on the side of the pier," she said with conviction.
"The city won't let us," we her siblings replied. "The pier is city property," we reminded her.
My sister didn't care. She had a brass plague made and under stealth conditions, my brother-in-law affixed it to the underside of the dock. It reads, In loving memory of Louis John Gallagher.
Whenever I have been in that city (see I'm still keeping it a stealth operation by not revealing the name of the place), I have visited that spot to say a prayer for my father, and to assure myself the plague is still in place.
There is comfort in feeling it there beneath the pier, just above the high water mark. There is peace and I believe that my father forgives us for having ignored his wishes. Plus, he'd get a kick out of knowing his marker is thwarting bureaucracy, bordering on the 'illegal' placement of signage on city property. That would have made him smile.
Maureen Doallas' essay this morning at Writing Without Paper does not make me smile. It makes my heart ache and my blood boil. Maureen writes about the real and heartbreaking events surrounding her recent journey to her father's gravesite at Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC, "the most prestigious cemetery in America", Maureen writes.
There is so much wrong with what has transpired for Maureen and her family and countless other families whose loved ones are interred at Arlington. So much disregard for humanity. So much inexplicable disrespect for brave men and women who served their country with honour and are now being disserved by the very people who promised to mark their passing with honour and are now treating their gravesites with little concern or consideration for those who come to honour their fallen loved ones.
Uneven ground. Sunken earth. Black plastic garbage bags covering headstones that have been displaced.
These are only a few of the travesties Maureen encountered recently at Arlington and through the course of her journey to ascertain if her father really was buried where Arlington National Cemetery said he was.
Please take a few moments to pay your respects to Maureen and hundreds of others who have been so poorly treated by Arlington National Cemetery they didn't even know there were 'Turf Renovations' as the sign read last week, where once their loved ones rested in peace.
Please read Looking for My Father and leave a comment for Maureen. While I don't know there is anything I can 'do' to change what is happening, I know we can offer support through our bearing witness to her journey.