Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fractured Fairy Tale.............

In death, as in life, my family's scattered to the winds.  My dad's there, my mom's over there and John's somewhere out there - I'm still here. There are many angels helping me at this point, one in particular, and they're still holding out for a miracle that John will be found on the Island.  Me, not so much.  Even as a child, I did not believe in miracles, fairy tales or the Easter Bunny.  There was no "Snow White" or "Sleeping Beauty" - reality was my companion. Not trying to evoke any sympathy, these were/are the facts.  It's a little hard at this stage of the game to start believing but, then again, we must.   So back to reality and...............the Island. John's somewhere out there, this I know.  Let's not see the Island as a dumping ground for human garbage because the thought the Island Souls are looked upon in that way is too much for me to bear - my brother is not, was not, "human garbage".  The fact remains, however, the Island is a dumping ground of sorts because decade after decade after decade nothing's been done to transform it otherwise.  Where are the fountains from which water may flow?  Where are the flowers from which a smile may grow?  Where are the trees from which shade may be given? Where are the (memorial) benches on which family and friends may sit and grieve?  And, where is the chapel in which we must pray? Other than the prisoners who perform the burials, is there a "Man of God" sending these souls off with some kind & spiritual words?  Why must the Island be so mysterious, elusive and hidden?  What are they hiding?  Just thought I'd ask.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Some days suck! ........

........and this is one of them.  Today, I'm asking myself what others might ask as well - what the hell am I doing and who really cares about any of this?  I'm just one little person in a crowd of millions so what do I really think I'm going to accomplish here?  I'm feeling rather down today - can you tell? - and I'm even depressing myself. I need to re-group, get focused and not worry about anything related.  Progress has been made, progress is being made, in the way it is supposed to.  Patience is not one of my better virtues - hah!
It's my worse.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An Island, not just for the poor.....................

I believe there's a misconception that Hart Island - Potter's Field - is the final resting place for the poor, the homeless, the indigent, the family-less, only.  Not true!  And, you may ask, "why should I care?"  While all the Potter's Fields throughout the world serve their purpose for those mentioned - quite frankly, if it weren't for such places, where should these unfortunate souls lay their bones, or should they just be thrown away? -one only has to look at my brother's story to know that many on the Island came from middle-class families, they were not poor, nor indigent and they did and do have families and friends. Besides, what difference does it make anyway - where the souls came from - do they not deserve the same dignity in death?

"There but for the grace of God go I".   We've all heard these words, many of us say them, and they are not exclusive to any particular religious group. So, where did these words come from and why are they so powerful?  The story goes that a variation of these words were spoken by the English Evangelical Preacher & Martyr, John Bradford (1510-1555) as he watched criminals being led to their deaths. He, himself, was burned at  the stake in 1555.  Point is, we don't know how life will turn out for us, we have no idea how it will end, and we have no real control over anything in life or, most definitely, not in death.  And so, lest you think those on Hart Island are basically "nobodys", of them could be the future you.  Is this where you would want to spend your eternal life?  Think about it.  Now, what can be done?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

 "Never underestimate the power of..." and that's all I'm sayin' for now.  Oh, and let's not forget that witty little saying, "Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned" - in this case, substitute "sister" for "woman" and you get the picture.  Wheels are a turnin' and heads a spinnin' somewhere in NYC and, again, that's all I'm sayin'...........for now. My head's been spinning so lately but I do want to say, if I haven't already, that there are others out there who have a great interest in Hart Island, for personal & various other reasons.  My interest is so, so personal - my brother's been hanging out there for 38 years now - and you can't get much more personal than that. In whatever capacity folks are interested, and in whatever way they are doing their part to bring attention to the Island, i.e., petition City Council, Mayor, etc., to allow public access to the Island, and more importantly, family and friends access, that's not enough!  It's not enough for the DOC to change their policies and procedures so all the Island Souls can know they are not forgotten, that people DO care, but restoration, preservation and respect must be brought to the Island as well.   You can sit there and think this is all a bunch of hog wash, talking about spirits, souls, etc., but I've no other explanation other than John's spirit is crying out to me - this is what pushes me forward.  At first, I thought it was just for him I was traveling on this journey, but I've come to believe he had, and has, a much grander plan in mind - the Island and all its inhabitants.   Never in a million years would I have thought I could start this blog, and another about John, and also create a website about Hart Island - certainly not me and, might I add, I'm the most computer illiterate person there is - who knew? - yet here I am, being a pain in the ass to others (which I do so well, by the way) and forging ahead. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Quote (and thought) for the Day............

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"And the show must go on"

With the recent information I've received about John - that his remains will not be found - my mission to bring more attention to the Island has become more urgent for me than ever.  He is there on the Island, he will never come home, and he deserves to have peace in his final resting place.  Everyone does! I was talking with a friend last night and we both just repeat the same words -  that it boggles the mind that nearly
1 Million bodies have been buried on the Island so nearly 1 Million souls are wandering - give or take a few thousand - and the fact that nothing has ever been done to make this sacred place more respectful is beyond comprehension, really!  I'm no one special, I am not famous, I haven't any money, and who the hell do I think I am?  Like so many, I haven't always known who I was but...............I'm learning. You know, it's very expensive to have a decent burial in this day and age - funeral ceremony, permit, burial plot, casket, headstone, to name the basics.  The cost?  Anywhere from $5000-$7000.  Do you have that kind of money just lying around in the event a loved one passes - I don't.  My point is this:  City Cemeteries are very important and necessary - you may be buried in one some day - and the fact we're talking about a City Cemetery -  in this case, Potter's Field, Hart Island - does not negate the fact these final resting "homes" should be, and must be, a place where peace may be found not only for those laid to rest, but for the families and friends of those who, hopefully, have gone on to another, if not better, land.  So why hasn't anything been done for Hart Island?  I've no idea how other cities handle their City Cemeteries, or in what condition they are in; trust me, if I had money, I'd travel and check 'em out.  My primary focus, however, is Hart Island, where my brother is;  where thousands of sons, daughters, fathers, mothers..............and brothers have been laid.  I plan on visiting the Island in the next couple of months, not only to see for myself but more importantly, to let John know I have not forgotten him, nor will I...............ever.  The journey will continue.

Monday, March 15, 2010

This is not the end...........

Well, I've received confirmation from the DOC (Department of Corrections) - and not the positive kind I had hoped for -   that John's remains, in fact, will never be found (due to lost records). First, "yes, we've confirmed, identified... (remains)" and exhumation would commence once the ground thawed.  Now, "oops, we made a mistake; can't find remains, never will".  Can't even be sad about this, not really, because if I get in a sad mode, I'll be frozen just like that ground I'd been waiting for to thaw.  I must stay angry; anger is a great motivator.  But, you know, this Blog  is NOT really about the DOC and I shall not go into any specifics, at least not now and not in this posting. We all know what my purpose is, where I'm headed and what I'd like to accomplish.  Believe me, I'm not big-headed enough to think I, alone, will make a difference but, then again, never underestimate the power of one.  As I so softly (not!) told a DOC representative today, and I quote, "if John's remains cannot be found, I will be goddamned if he stays in that 'sh--t hole' for all eternity".  You know, crazy as this may sound, it may have been my brother's plan all along - to look at (and fight for) the big picture; that this was never just about him but about the thousands, and thousands, and thousands, and............. This just may be the path that John chose for me to travel on, with all its bumps, pot holes and blurred white lines and................ a lot of heartache.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Frustration and Sadness..............

abounds.  If anyone has been following this blog, they'd know what my connection to Hart Island is - my brother's been buried there since 1972.  Since 2009 I've been on a mission to have John exhumed so I may give him a proper burial in a Veteran's Cemetery in So. California.  Things were going great, NYC officials have been helping me, and I actually got confirmation from the DOC (Dept.of Corrections which has jurisdiction over Hart Island),  albeit from a third party, that my brother's remains were confirmed and identified.  Well, now, not so and I'm hoppin' angry - gotta stay angry otherwise I'd fall apart!  The irresponsibility of telling me John's remains were found, gotta wait til the ground thaws to exhume him, blah, blah,blah, and now, they're saying "oops, we made a mistake".  Oh my god, are they kidding, is this a joke?  Sadly, it's all true. Now I'm getting first-hand knowledge of how the DOC operates - apparently not well - and I'm here to tell you.....................if John's remains cannot be found, I will be damned if I allow him to continue to remain in a place overseen by folks who obviously have no respect for the dead. And why is the DOC overseer of Potter's Field anyway?  And why isn't the DOC suggesting that Potter's Field be preserved and restored as the final resting place that it is for thousands? Have they ever devised a "plan" to do something, or even made the attempt?  All rhetorical questions but answers that need to come for me and many other families whose loved ones are buried there, never to be found or identified. If it's the last breath I take, I will continue on the mission to bring the plight of Hart Island to the attention of someone, anyone, who can and will help.  The ball MUST start rolling for restoration and preservation and the personal connection I have, the sorrow I feel over the fact John might have to stay there for eternity, is the impetus for me to march on.  Call me crazy - I'd be in good company - but I don't care.  Taking a stand and having a passion for what we do in life are key.  John's had nothing but bad breaks throughout his brief life and I'm not going to allow his spirit to wander through the skies, restless and without peace. One way or another, he WILL be honored and respected in death if it's the last thing I do!