For a few weeks I’ve been seething about disgraceful treatment of an elderly senior friend at a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery. Now, Dale Carter’s October 5, 2010 post over at Transition Aging Parents has encouraged me to share my frustrating experience.
After an elderly colleague died, many of us gathered at Arlington National Cemetery, where she was laid to rest next to her husband, a former military officer. The best friend of the deceased, a 93-year-old woman who has difficulty walking, was also attending the short grave-side service, so we had called ahead to ensure that the cemetery management knew she had special needs. Amazingly, on the phone they old us that they make no accommodations in the cemetery itself.
Fine, we thought, we would just park her car right next to the grave site so she would only need to walk a few steps. We did not count, however, on driving around (and around) the cemetery and finally being told to double-park in two rows (so no other cars could get by during the funeral). Unfortunately my older friend’s car ended up fifth in one of lines, perhaps 30 yards back from the grave site, and because she could not walk that distance, she decided to stay in the car while the rest of us walked up to the grave site.
When we asked our cemetery liaison if one row of the cars could be moved up about 30 yards, something that would have taken two minutes, the answer was no. I reserve my real anger (and remember I am the daughter of a minister) for the chaplain who was leading the service. He stood mute during our entreaties without intervening and then proceeded with the service as if nothing happened. Isn’t a clergy person, even one in the precision, highly scheduled military funeral business, supposed to see to the needs of the mourners? Shame on him for making a 93-year-old woman sit in a car during a friend’s memorial service.
So I was again appalled, but not particularly surprised, by Dale Carter’s post, Historic Destinations Can be Risky for Aging Parents, describing a visit with her mother to an apparently accommodation-less Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
OK folks, we are not talking about elevators and lifts here. We are talking about small ramps and railings — accommodations that I installed in my house in a few hours. Or in the case of cemetery management, just confirming that the people who need special assistance are in the front cars and — moving cars when necessary.
Note to historic sites: In the near future a lot of historic sites need to get with the disability accommodation program, or they are going to lose a lot of paying customers as the senior “grey tsunami” visitors write off locations that don’t care.
Note to Arlington Cemetery: Can it be that a lot of elderly grandparents, people who have lost adored and much-loved children and grandchildren, are not able to participate fully memorial services at Arlington Memorial Cemetery?