Every now and then, in the moments just before sleep, I will remember standing in the centre of a graveyard for people with intellectual disabilities. I don't remember if I was there in winter or summer but it's always, in my mind, a cold day. One tree stood, in lonely vigil, near the centre of the land. There were no gravestones. No crosses. No markers. There was nothing there to indicate that was holy ground. Those who drove by would have seen what looked to a man standing in the middle of a small field.
The gravestones? They had been torn down and removed to be crushed and then put to industrial use. There was no one, they thought, that would want to grieve, that would want to remember. I could see evidence of this massive vandalization when searching the ground closely. Bits and pieces of gravestone could be found.
I left stunned and shattered.
First that these graves existed at all. That the institution, a huge one, which wrapped two arms around the graveyard, had been full and teeming with life. That people had been pulled from their families, pulled from their communities, and housed here. That people longed for freedom and instead ended up a few feet away, resting in a graveyard with neat graves in a row, like an eternal ward.
Then that someone, somewhere, sitting in an office writing a memo, after a meeting of other someones sitting in other offices, calling for the destruction of the markers, calling for the 'good sense' use of the material in other, more valued places.
It seemed that they counted on no want remembering, or, probably more accurately, no on wanting to remember.
Well I did.
Well I do.
Today is the International Day of Mourning and Memory.
Today I remember those who lived longing for freedom and getting, instead, captivity.
Today I remember those who while living in freedom were bullied to death.
Today I remember those who came to the community to find violence not welcome.
Today I remember those people who fought, and fought hard for the closure of buildings and and end to institutionalization.
Today I remember those people who fight against violence against people with disabilities.
Today I remember that there is work yet to be done.
Today I pledge to be part of the community of those who fight against violence and who resist the segregation and exclusion of people with disabilities.
I know today, that in that field, there is a memorial to those who were buried there. A memorial that was the result of others who came together to fight, and fight hard, for the right for people with disabilities to be remembered and to be mourned.