Easter Lilies and Justice | Dear Diane

by Elouise

Easter Lilies

Dear Diane,
Funny how things come together: Easter lilies, our first apartment, and Mr. Griswold.

Easter Sunday always reminds me of you. I know you weren’t born on April 5. But you were born on an Easter Sunday. So Happy Birthday a bit ahead of time!

When Dad could no longer function without hospice care, he told me a story about you. I wonder if you remember it. It was about his flower garden in our back yard when we lived on the river. It had many flowers, including Dianthus because they reminded him of you.

According to Dad, one day he notices that some Easter lilies are missing. Then when he goes in the house he sees them—in flower vases here and there! He’s upset! But who’s the culprit?

It didn’t take long to find out. And, as he said with tears in his eyes, your response to his scolding was “Where are the flowers for the children?” Cut him to the quick, he said.

Do you remember that square patch of flowers near the rear of the back yard? It wasn’t very large. Maybe 5 feet wide. It had posts with twine supports for some of the flowers. Most were bright zinnias.

That was Dad’s flower garden for the children. We could pick any of them, any time. All because you had the guts to ask the most important question of all. “Where are the flowers for the children?”

This week I was looking at old photos of our Cambridge apartment. There on the fireplace mantel was a photograph of you! Young, lovely you! Probably your college senior picture.

A couple of weeks after we moved into that apartment, I went for an interview with the dean of the Harvard Law School. During the interview I discovered his wife, Harriet Ford Griswold, had polio when she was a young mother. I told him about you and about Mom.

For both of us, it was one of those heartwarming connections when you meet someone who understands polio and the way it affects families. It was also an eye-opener for me as I reflected this week on that conversation.

The eye-opener was about Mrs. Griswold. Harriet Ford Griswold was a tireless, outspoken advocate for women, men and children with disabilities. She had lost both legs to paralysis, and had lived with a wheelchair for most of her married life. She had a specially outfitted car that she drove with her hands, and got around town on her own. Bigtime.

From the first day I met her, I recognized a woman on a mission. Why are we discriminating against the disabled? Treating them as subhuman? It’s outrageous!

This was years before the 1973 Rehabilitation Act that outlawed discrimination against persons with disabilities. With many others, she fought long and hard for this law.

Harriet Ford Griswold could get on your nerves, but she didn’t care. She wanted to get on your nerves and your conscience and your mind. She wanted you to pick up that pen and write that legislation or make that improvement that does the right thing!

From that early legislation came the first Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This was about access, changing small and large obstacles that shut people out of spaces and places supposedly ‘open to the public.’ Narrow doorways, round doorknobs and faucets, stairs and sidewalks without ramps, and a thousand other daily details that many of us never have to think about.

Well, you probably see where I’m going with this. When you got ALS, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was in place. Your house, your van and even your new church building incorporated features that made life a bit easier for everyone.

Mr. Griswold was the best boss I ever had. Harriet Ford Griswold may have been one of the best advocates you ever had and never heard about.

Love, hugs, and bunches of Easter lilies,

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 April 2015
Photo credit: wallpapersup.net (Easter Lilies); robsplants.com (Dianthus)