Category Archives: Words/Verses

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The term ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was initiated when President Bill Clinton signed a law regarding the service of homosexuals in the military, which directed military personnel to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue, don’t harass.’

Leonard P. Matlovich was an Air Force sergeant who served three tours of duty in Vietnam and was gravely wounded. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and two Air Force Commendation medals for gallantry under fire and exemplary service. Yet, despite his service, he was discharged from the U.S. Air Force after confessing his sexuality to his commanding officer. His struggle to receive an honourable discharge, rather than the general discharge advocated by the Air Force, triggered a national movement regarding gay rights especially in the military.

Knowing that he had AIDS at a time when it was a death sentence, he designed his own headstone with the idea that it would stand as a memorial for all gay veterans.

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His design of a black reflective surface replicating the Vietnam War Memorial incorporated two triangles referencing the pink triangle which was a symbol sewn on the clothes of homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps. The left triangle pointing downward is a symbol of defeat. It is highlighted with the legend, ‘Never Again.’ The upward pointing triangle on the right is a symbol of victory with the phrase, ‘Never Forget.’ Although the dates of his birth and death are inscribed on the headstone, his name (Matlovich) is only inscribed at the foot of the memorial.

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As an activist for Gay Rights, his words are inscribed on his headstone: ‘When I Was In The Military They Gave Me A Medal For Killing Two Men And A Discharge For Loving One.’ Although eligible to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery he chose to be interred in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC. “I believe we must be the same activists in our deaths that we were in our lives,” Leonard Matlovich. A gay veteran’s memorial service is held at his grave every Veteran’s Day.

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Members of American Veterans for Equal Rights have purchased adjoining plots with the intention of creating an LGBT veterans memorial.

This marker for Marine Corps veteran and activist Tom Swann is located near Matlovich’s grave. Swann won a lawsuit against the Navy for discrimination against him as a civilian employee after they learned he was gay. He also led the creation of a memorial for LGBT veterans in Desert Memorial Park near Palm Springs. Never Give Up Hope Or Give In To Discrimination.

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Michael William Hildebrand’s stone does not state that he is gay. However, the use of the pink triangle and the proximity to Matlovich’s grave suggests such. An inscription reads, “It Was Said Of Him That He Had The Gift To Give Love To Those Who Felt Unloved.”

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Abandoned and Forgotten

Overgrown and abandoned cemeteries emote a special kind of sadness.

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Give joy or grief, give ease or pain
Take life or friends away
But let me find them all again
In one eternal day.   1862

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Reader remember dye thou must
And after Death return to Dust
Therefore repent, repent in time
The Grave next opened nay be thine.

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To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die.  1939

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Tho lost to sight
To memory clear

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The parish of Saint Bernard, New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005.

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Lights are from our household gone
Voices we loved are stilled
Places are vacant at our home
Which never can be filled.

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Abide with me
Fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens
Lord with me abide.

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Death is swallowed up in victory.

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Death severs yet unites. 1912

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Only goodnight beloved not farewell. 1938

Premature Burial

 

In 16th century England, land for burial was sparse. Coffins were dug up and bones taken to the bone-house so that the grave could be reused. Upon opening the coffins, it was noticed that several had scratch marks on the inside. The realization that people were being buried whilst still alive led to the practise of tying a string on the wrist of the corpse, which was attached to a bell above ground, while a sentry sat in the cemetery overnight. This procedure generated several expressions which we use today: ‘saved by the bell’, ‘dead ringer’ and ‘the graveyard shift’.

It also led to a legend known as the ‘Lady with the Ring’. The story relates that a woman was buried while wearing a valuable wedding ring. Shortly after the burial, a grave robber intent on stealing the ring opened the grave. Unable to remove the ring he decided to cut off the finger with a knife, which caused the woman to awaken, surprising the robber. Versions of the story have been found to exist in almost every European country.

In Shankill Graveyard, Lurgan, County Armagh, Northern Ireland is the grave of Margorie McCall who it is believed was the victim of a premature burial. Margorie was wed to Dr. John McCall. They lived in Church Place, Lurgan.

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Margorie fell ill and died in 1705 and was hastily buried to prevent the spread of the disease. The story continues with the attempted theft of the ring……when the robbers fled, Margorie climbed out of the grave and returned home. When she knocked on the door, her husband dropped dead of shock and was buried in the very grave she had just vacated.

The Public Records Office in Northern Ireland (PRONI) contains death records for nine Margorie McCalls in Lurgan, three of whom were married to a John McCall. However, no record is held of the death in 1705.

In the 1860s a local stonemason by the name of William Graham created a marker bearing the inscription Margorie McCall Lived Once, Buried Twice. The marker was erected at the base of Dr. John McCall’s gravestone in Shankill cemetery.

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Died Once Buried Twice

There lowly beneath lonely sod,
A lady twice entombed,
Tradition has it noised abroad,
She was exhumed alive.

Her precious ring her finger bore,
From her bright wedding day;
And in death likewise wore
When buried in the clay.

But a foul thief to steal the ring,
Did cast the clay aside
And he to life did quickly bring
She who lately died.

For he should cut the finger round,
To gain the golden prize,
But when the blood flowed from the wound
She spoke and did arise.

And straight away to her home did go
In her dead robes so white;
Like a wandering spirit free from woe,
But doomed to roam at night.

And when she reached her husbands door,
She gave her well known knock
An he fell senseless to the floor,
Un-nerved by the strange shock.

Her children knew here gentle voice
And flew to her embrace;
And all the neighbours did rejoice,
But marvelled at the case.

But death at last took here away,
As he will sure take all
And not again to Judgement Day
Shall Rise Margery McCaull.. 

 

Dart of Death

The arrow is a recognized symbol of mortality. Arrows may also represent a military profession or hunting.

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In the following instances, the arrow appears with a symbol of three linked rings (the chains that bind the Fraternity of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows) The letters FLT stand for Friendship, Love and Truth.

This first image displays the hand of God piercing the skull with an arrow.

The gravestone shown below is engraved on both sides. The front identifies the deceased members of the Boney Family. The back contains verses from the bible and an effigy with a downward pointing arrow.

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Used with permission of Rod Duncan. Source: http://herelieth.blogspot.com/2012/08/thomas-bony-newtown-linford.html#comment-form

As I Am So Shallt Thou Bee / Prepare Thy Self To Follow Mee / Blessed Are The Dead Wich Die In The / Lord That They Mae Rest From Their / Labers And Their Works Follow Them
This verse is closely related to Revelations 14 verse 13 which varies within different versions of the Bible.

Words on Stone

An excerpt from the poem, The Green Fields of France by Eric Bogle.
But here in this graveyard that is still No Man’s land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand.
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man
To a whole generation that was butchered and damned.

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Hail sweet repose now shall we rest
No more with Sickness be distressed
Here from all Sorrow find release
Our Souls shall dwell in endless peace.

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Here lies brave Snow, full six feet deep,
Whose heart would melt when caused to weep.
Though winter’s blast may freeze his frame,
Yet Death’s cold grasp can’t chill his fame.  1829

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His lips which I kissed are faded and cold
His hands which I clasped are covered with mould
His form which I clasped is crumbled away
And soon by his side his weepers shall lay.

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What thou art reading on my bones
Oft I read on other stones
And others soon will read of thee
What thou art reading now of me.

Ω

Passengers behold ! my friends and view;
Breathless I lie; no more with you;
Hurri’d from life, sent to the grave;
Jesus my only hope – to save;
No warning had I of my sad fate
Till dire the stroke alas! to late.

Ω

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Filial affection stronger than the grave
From time’s obliterating hand to save
Erects this humble monument of stones
Over a Father’s and Mother’s bones
Far from their native land here mouldering lie
As one in life, now in one cemetery
In Heaven their children hope that blessd abode
To meet their spirits with arisen God.

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In death’s cold arms lies sleeping
A tender parent, a companion dear
In love she lived, in peace she died
Her life was asked but was denied.

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