There was a moving and thought provoking article in last Sunday’s paper. It was titled “Juneau’s Most Vulnerable Woman Remembered.” It brought to the forefront the struggles of homeless people in Juneau.
There were two quotes in the article, which showed much disrespect for the memory of Gloria Plummer which caused deep hurt, anxiety and upset among her family in Juneau, Sitka and Angoon. It also caused much upset among her extended family of Angoon. One sister who read these words found them so graphically reprehensible that she is still crying over it.
It is not the way we want people to remember Gloria. She was not always this way, she was a strong woman once, married, ran a household, raised a daughter and helped her raise her grandsons. Unable to overcome the loss of her husband in a tragic accident about 14 years ago, she began her slow descent into alcoholism and then homelessness.
This woman who died on a faded blue mattress under the 12th Street bridge was Gloria Plummer, my sister-in-law. Her family asked me to help make this right, to bring peace and dignity to Gloria’s memory.
Respect for others and for self is the strongest cultural value for Tlingit people. A death of a clan member is a very important time, it carries ceremony and tradition. Words are carefully chosen and tenderly spoken. Opposite clan members hold the family up, other clan members carry their tears. This was the case at the services held at the Glory Hole last Friday. The words spoken by the Glory Hole patrons filled the empty void in the hearts of Gloria’s siblings and brought them much peace.
Words, once uttered, cannot be recalled. Words, once printed, cannot be erased.
There were just a few words uttered, and printed in last Sundays article which hurt my husband’s family to the core. They did not think it possible that someone could speak of Gloria this way.
This is why I am writing this. Sometimes it takes only a little gesture of compassion to turn a tide. Sometimes it takes acknowledgement of an impossible situation to bring peace. I don’t want my husband’s family to be upset. I don’t want them to feel that even in her death that Gloria was abused by the power structure in the name of a news report. And most of all, I don’t want anyone’s memory to be of Gloria peeing in a chair.
I do want to put a face to Gloria. She had struggles in her life. She died under a bridge. But she also had a secure happy life at one time too. There were many people who loved her and cared about her. Gloria was loved in life and is still loved in death, because at her core, Gloria was a good person. We respect the choices she made, we respect the person she was.
Wife of Leonard Johnson (8th sibling)