11/30/05 A Love Story--Conclusion
Pat and Bill’s story, and the one that follows, illustrate the cracks in the current system. Had persons in authority utilized available systems, they would have quickly found that Bill was listed as missing. It would appear that they assumed he had no one who cared because he was homeless, and they treated him as they would an UID. They buried him in a pauper’s grave and made no effort to check out his identity. He was no one to them, just another person to add to the collection of 700 in the cemetery.
How many of the 700 have known identities? If they are known, was there any attempt to use federal systems to locate the families? For the typical UID’s, was any physical data preserved from those bodies so that someday, perhaps a family might have the answer as to the fate of the missing loved one? Do consider that this is just one location and one pauper’s grave.
Because of a system failure and disregard for human life, Pat and Bill’s family had to wait for more than 5 years to learn that Bill had passed away. Was the $1.07 left in his possession the value placed upon him in life and in death?
Pat had brought Bill home, but yet the unanswered questions as to why this happened prompted her to continue her search for answers.
Pat continues with her story:
“I notified his only sister who lived out of town and the rest of his family that he was home, and that I would have a graveside memorial service on Tuesday, June 21 at 11 a.m. I had special songs played at his service, had his niece read scripture, his nephew read also a very moving chapter, his great-niece sang, and his sister-in-law got up and spoke about Bill as well as did his sister.
About 25 family and friends attended the service. I had a white dove release at the end of the service. The theme of the service on the programs I had fixed was "Home at Last." I then had everyone down to my house where I had lunch for them. It was good being around Bill's family. I felt a closeness to him. I really felt he was here with us.
During all this I was trying to find out about his last days, but I hit stumbling block after stumbling block. I wasn't his next of kin, no matter that I was paying to have his body sent here. The funeral director did get me a complete death certificate and it listed his death as COPD, lung cancer which had metastasized, and TB. It also told that from diagnosis to death had been three months. I tried contacting the Dr. who was listed on the death certificate. They told me the hospital would have the records. The social workers at the hospital told me they couldn't release his records to me. They also couldn't tell me why no one was notified. I believe Bill was in such a state probably with the cancer gone to his brain that he was unable to tell who to notify and the social workers didn't try. I resolved to someday go in person to the hospital and try to get the records and find out just why no one was notified.
What has happened to Bill and to me is devastating. To think he died alone is so dis-heartening. I have been angry but determined, and that is why I had to bring him home, one last thing for him after he lived years of poverty and homelessness. What happened to him and has happened to other homeless forgotten people is such an injustice. Not enough effort is made to find the next of kin. They are forgotten. It's like their life doesn't matter. Oh, well, they're dead, just bury them and forget them. How many are out there like that? I do know that the cemetery where Bill was, holds over 700 pauper's graves. How many are there that somewhere there is a loved one still waiting and hoping? There is no excuse for some social worker to try and play God and not make an effort to find a dying person's family. They are just another number on a grave.
Social services did provide a small marker with his name, birthday which was inscribed wrong and his date of death. Again, this was a haphazard way of dealing with him. No real reason was given to me as to why someone didn’t try to notify anyone about Bill. It was always side stepped.
I think anytime a funeral director handles a case such as this, the funeral director should be required to take a photo of the deceased before burial and keep it on file.
I feel at a dead end, however, I am not through. I feel that when a person is dead, if a caring, loving member of that person's family is interested in finding out what happened to them, then that person who is searching should be told all. Even though I was Bill’s former wife, he never re-married, I should be able to get any information on him, as he is dead now. And, certainly, a son, daughter, sister, brother should be able to get information about their loved one if they are sick, in a homeless shelter or dead.
An investigative reporter could pressure the authorities into releasing this information. I want to know the last days of Bill's life. Where he was staying, who if anyone was by his bed when he died, what were his 24 days in the hospital like, (someone told me he was there 24 days) why his death certificate wasn't signed or filed until April 17 (signed by Dr.) and April 21, 2000 by XXXXX XXXXX, Social Worker at Baptist Hospital. (She is no longer there).
What is left undone is described above. I want to know about his last days and why no one was notified with all the identification he had on him. Someone, somewhere can surely find this out. I have tried calling every homeless shelter in Nashville, to no avail. I plan on continuing to look into this.
Still, after all of this and 47 years later, my love for Bill still goes on. He was always in my heart, as I was in his heart, but it was not meant for us to be together again on this earth. So, I call it eternal love, as I will love him until I die and beyond. I fully believe he will be waiting for me in a perfect hereafter where we can be together through eternity, whatever that may be. I feel his presence around me a lot of the time. This is what I had inscribed on his gravestone:
"Bill, Love is Eternal----Pat"
That is what our love was and is.”