Saturday 12 June 2021

From the gift of a cemetery

An end as a new beginning

Inexplicable is the word that came to mind when I heard the story of Ruth Coker Burks on BBC Radio 4 some nights ago during a usual bout of insomnia, and many a tear I did shed. Imagine a girl born into an abusive childhood who lost her father at 5 and whose mother suffered tuberculosis and out of a dispute with between her mother and her uncle inherited a cemetery on the passing of a mother.

You would wonder what a young adult would have to do with a cemetery until she found herself spending the last 13 hours of the life a young man with AIDS calling out for his mother that had rejected him. She found prejudice, bigotry, ostracism, homophobia and much else along the way with no place to bury the young man until it occurred to her that she had a cemetery and the first AIDS victim’s ashes she buried were scattered in the grave of her father.

Restoring faith in humanity

Here was a single mother in her twenties who out curiosity and oodles of human compassion chanced upon a person and before you knew it, she became an AIDS carer directly and indirectly to over 1,000 people and buried over 40 AIDS victims in her family cemetery.

Even quite poignantly, when AIDS was a death sentence and long before there were therapies, those she cared for seemed to have a longer life expectancy until her care that the National Institute for Health sent researchers to investigate. It just came down to giving care and hope, even in a hopeless situation.

The story I heard was of an angel of mercy, full of compassion, and whilst at risk, she put the fullness of her humanity into the end-of-life care of many young men rejected and disowned by their families, giving them dignity in death and whose story has only begun to be told. [Amazon: All the Young Men: How One Woman Risked It All to Care for the Dying]

Giving dignity and hope to strangers

There is no hopeless situation and every gift we receive might well be for a purpose we could never conceive at the point of acquisition. The many who could not find in their humanity to face the suffering of their families and relationships, she stood up to and whilst standing in with love towards all that came to her. Her kindness is a beacon restoring faith in our humanity.

What do you do with a cemetery? You give strangers the honour and the dignity of a decent burial and memorial and put others to shame.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are accepted if in context are polite and hopefully without expletives and should show a name, anonymous, would not do. Thanks.