Freedom. I have a rare day off. Not just an hour or two. The whole day. I ignore the laundry pile and empty refrigerator in favor of fulfilling a trip to a place I have long been curious about. Arlington National Cemetery. Rumor in my California home of Idyllwild has it that friend Dot (Dorothy) Swain Lewis is at rest there. She was an amazing person. A person who inspired anyone she came in contact with. Fighter pilot and WASP during WWII who received a Congressional Gold Medal, artist, teacher, naturalist, hiker, and so much more. I had the pleasure of meeting Dot a few years before she died. Her smile was infectious and her spirit soared. I want to pay my respects while I am in my DC home.
Entering the grounds are impressive. A long street leading to massive stone pillars make you feel like you are on European palace grounds. The entrance to Barcelona’s national museum is similar.
Once inside, I use a computer directory to look up Dot’s name, but no success. She is not listed. I Facebook a message to Idyllwild friends who knew Dot to see if anyone knows where I can find her grave. I leave a note in the guest registry of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.
I move outside to view the grounds while waiting for responses. Peace and beauty surround me. The vistas of the district and Arlington are spectacular. There are over 624 acres in this cemetery, so I reign in my ambitions of seeing it all and concentrate on the most famous landmarks within walking distance. Slowly, I make my way toward the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Memorial Amphitheater, Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s tomb and John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame. I stop numerous times to take photographs.
Wandering through the grounds provides a comforting acceptance of the cycle of life. Surrounding me are legacies to those who have passed mixed with celebrations of life. The people strolling through, the spectacular views of a busy city beyond, even a bird’s nest built on the bell of the USS Maine monument.
My phone has started binging and bonging letting me know Facebook is trying to get my attention. I am connected to Dot’s son and find out he petitioned to get her buried here in 2014. Unfortunately, the petition was denied. I question how a woman who taught men twice her size to fly jets could be ignored. I’ll never forget the story Dot told me about the men who didn’t want to go up in the jet with her. The ones who thought she wasn’t capable of teaching them anything. How did she change their minds? She took them up up up then rolled the jet until their stomachs tumbled out of their mouths and gave them a wink and a smile.