Time to Mourn

Last week, I proposed to my sister that we make a trip to visit Susan B. Anthony’s grave while in Rochester for my cousin’s wedding. We expected it would be a victory lap, and we agreed to bring our “I Voted” stickers to leave on the grave.

When Hillary lost, the visit seemed more necessary. Maybe it would be an apology tour, or we could promise to keep up the fight. I wasn’t sure what I would find when we got there, but it seemed worth the effort to make the trip.

I got up around 8 on Saturday morning, and Lorin woke up around 9. We grabbed hot beverages and put on down jackets. Even though the walk there was about 2.5 miles, it was only 39 degrees out, and we have thin Cali blood. Despite what I would consider the late hour, the streets of downtown Rochester were empty and quiet. Most of the buildings are brick and there are some art deco touches that speak to a time when Rochester was first a place of great pride. We walked along the Genesee River trail, and I kept exclaiming how clean the river was. Lorin noted that the river was clean because of a federal grant and partnership with Rochester for clean land and water. Thanks, Obama.

That’s my lonely “I Voted” sticker on there.

Mount Hope Cemetery is beautiful. There are huge old trees and most of them still had their leaves, in bright yellows, reds and oranges. The grass is green and gold. It’s quiet, the way a cemetery should be. There’s a map at the entrance, and Susan B. Anthony’s grave is easy to find. I expected to find it covered in other stickers, but there were workers leaving as we arrived and I suspect that they are cleaning it regularly. The stone was clean. Three small rocks sat on top. Susan B. Anthony’s father’s marker is near hers, and around its top, it says, “Liberty, Humanity, Equality.” We cried. A woman from Philly came up with three very little daughters and she took our picture and we took hers. The little girls were sweet and clingy and all three adults had red-ringed eyes.

Frederick Douglass’s grave.

Next stop, Frederick Douglass’s grave. His gravesite is a little grander, with a bigger grave stone and another slab marker on the ground. It was still covered with a few dozen “Voted” stickers. There’s a memorial bunch and a separate smaller marker for his second wife. His plot is in a quieter part of the cemetery. We cried more. A lot more.

I kept trying to think of what to say. “Sorry” didn’t cut. It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t vote for Trump and I worked to elect Hillary. “Thank you” wasn’t enough either. I have been able to vote my whole life and never thought to thank my forebears before. I decided to shut up and listen to what they might be saying to me.

I heard the shushing of the trees. I heard that I could feel sad but not sorry for myself. Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass fought to create new rights, which seems a lot harder than fighting to preserve them. They fought for those rights while they themselves did not have those rights. We have these rights, and we can use them to fight to preserve what we have and for a more perfect union.

Our grief is real but our movement is still alive.

The tree in Frederick Douglass’s part of the cemetery.

Leaving the cemetery, I walked back to my hotel through a city that is struggling to move beyond its industrial past while still retaining its character. At the wedding, I met trans kids who held each other’s hands and thanked my dad and his husband for their struggle. I saw straight boys dancing with each other and old dudes rocking out on guitars. The couple are very much in love. Everything we fight for, to protect, is so worth it.

Okay, back to organizing.