Last week we held another memorial at The Dale. This one was for a woman named Mary Patterson, also known on the streets of Parkdale as “Irish Mary”. She had a large personality, and considered herself to be a sort of den mother to her crew of friends. She would never hesitate to let you know what she really thought, and was so generous that she would give you the shirt off her back if she thought you needed it more than she did.
I didn’t know Mary very well; I learned most of what I’ve just written about her during the story-sharing time at her memorial. This element of Dale memorials (sharing stories about the person who has passed away) is crucial. We leave lots of time for it, and believe that it’s one of the most important things that we can do as a community. Stories matter.
As Thomas King puts it, “the truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” We honour the lives of our friends by telling and re-telling the stories of who they were and who they continue to be to us.
I’ve been reading a book recently called In the Shelter: finding a home in the world, by Padraig O Tuama. He, too, writes about stories, and how they can either create shelters for us, or cast shadows over us. Stories matter.
I’ve included parts of a poem from this book below, that I interpret to be a conversation between a human and the Divine.
And I said to him:
Are there answers to all of this?
And he said:
The answer is in a story
and the story is being told.
And I said:
But there is so much pain
And she answered, plainly:
Pain will happen.
The answer is in the story
and the story isn’t finished.
– Padraig O Tuama
We are part of the Big Story of God’s love for the world, and the story isn’t finished. Our little stories can and do weave their way into this Big Story; Mary’s stories, my stories, your stories.