Wednesday, May 30, 2012


They've finally decided to bury Fortune.

Fr. Bob, the Interim at St. John's in Waterbury, called me a few days ago to tell me and to ask about the St. John's plot in Riverside Cemetery. I was overjoyed to hear the good news!

At long, long last, Fortune will be laid to rest.

Fortune, just to catch you up, was a slave of a member of St. John's back in day when slavery was still legal in Connecticut. He was a slave of a physician, probably born into the good doctor's family of slaves and named by the good doctor. It was the day (as I can see on the tombstones in the old section of Cheshire's Hillside Cemetery, when people were named such things as Chastity, Loyal, Laity, Honor and, yes, Fortune.)

Anyhow, after Fortune died, a relatively young man as I remember the story, the doctor (whose name I can't remember though I once knew it--and I'm glad his name is lost in infamy--which would have been an interesting first name--and Fortune's name is remembered) boiled him down or somehow extracted Fortune's skeleton from his flesh and used his bones as a teaching device.

There is no end to the wrongness of that. I've often wondered where real skeleton's came from, and I'm sure lots of them came from such nefarious events. But Fortune, who was born and died a slave, deserved a better final fate.

Older members of St. John's remembered learning about bones from a trip to the Mattatuck Museum in junior high when Fortune's bones were on display.

At some point (thank whatever gods there be!) someone objected to displaying the bones of a slave and the Museum put Fortune in storage. I found out about him and offered a burial plot owned by St. John's for his burial.

Now, years later, the decision has been made to bury him. But not before he goes to the Smithsonian for his bones to be scanned, x-rayed and thoroughly recorded.

Fr. Bob (his name is Robert Miner, but I can't think of him in any other way but "Fr. Bob". It's what he likes to be called and he's a remarkable priest and human being and it actually works for me--the one who eschews all forms of honorific addresses. I call my Doctor "Mark" and my dentist "Dean" and my bishop "Ian". But Robert is worthy of being called Fr. Bob.) I put so may parenthetical phrases in there I lost the sentence, which was meant to be: Fr. Bob tells me there is to be a big celebration with choirs from the Black Churches and the Mayor and such.

Good for them. Fortune, after what is surely a century and a half, deserves a send-off that is more glorious than any of his life--and his time as an unwilling skeleton--ever entailed.

May his soul, and the souls of all the departed, rest in peace.

And may his mortal remains finally, finally be given the respect they have long been denied.

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.