Monthly Archives: June 2016

Highlights

Standard

I’m finding it hard to believe that I’ve been working at The Dale for nearly 4 years now. During the spring/summer of 2012 I was feverishly working on finishing my masters thesis, and trying to decide where I would work in the fall. Erinn and I had met in May of that year, and I immediately knew that I wanted her to be my friend and mentor, and potentially co-worker. Four years later, I’m SO grateful that I decided to take the plunge into the unknown that was Parkdale!

Over the past few days I’ve had a beautiful opportunity to reflect on my time at The Dale thus far, as I transfer photos and memos from my old, dying, phone to my computer. About a year into my time in Parkdale I realized that so many lovely (and hard) things were happening all the time that there was no way I would be able to remember them all. So I started making memos on my phone, typing out at least some of these moments shortly after they happened. I’ve spent a number of hours transferring these memos and smiling, laughing, and/or tearing up. All these little occurrences, and the thousands of moments that I didn’t record, have flowed together to create my experience of life at The Dale.

As I look back all these little snapshots, I feel all sorts of things:

  • joy and wonder at how far certain friends (and I) have come, in terms of managing their anger or anxiety or addictions in the context of a community where we all rely heavily on the grace of God.
  • warmth and gratitude at how much closer so many relationships have become over the last few years.
  • grief at how much I miss the many friends who have passed away, or are too sick to be present, or have disappeared from the community without us knowing why.
  • sorrow that some people have left the community because of interpersonal conflict that they felt to be insurmountable, despite our best efforts to mediate reconciliation.
  • gratitude for the many moments of deep encouragement, often from unforeseen sources.
  • more gratitude, for the wide variety of gifts and ways of participating in the life of The Dale that community members share.

I’ve shied away from sharing specifics, because the significance of these moments is tough to explain without their larger context, and many of them feel so sacred that I dare not attempt to translate their meaning through words on a computer screen. But please allow me to share a few quotes from community members that I find to be inspiring/hilarious/lovely.

When asked how he was doing, a friend who was panhandling outside the Dollarama said with determined optimism, “Could be better… but could be a LOT worse!”

A friend ending a prayer during our church service on Feb 14th with “Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Lord!”

Another friend’s prayer when he ran into us on outreach: “Dear Lord, thank you for the love you show us through our friends. Please help us to keep moving, despite our diseases and shortcomings. Please give us grace.”

 

What a privilege. Time to start a new round of memos 🙂

A farewell to Grumpy

Standard

I really miss my friend Mike “Grumpy” Graham. Parkdale is not, and will not be, the same without him. I still expect to see him sitting in one of the three bus shelters that he frequented, and which he lovingly referred to as Cottages 1, 2 and 3. I’m going to miss popping my head into one of these cottages and being greeted with “oh nooooo. Not YOU!” I’ll miss his gravelly voice, his twinkling eyes, and his witty one-liners.

We held a visitation, funeral and burial for Grumpy this Tuesday, which was an immense privilege. And it was a roller coaster of a day. At various points the events and participants could be described as somber, chaotic, sweet, hysterical, hilarious, sacred, violent, sentimental, silly and profound.

The visitation was pretty rowdy, as folks were experiencing a wide range of emotions, and finding a variety of ways to cope with and express those emotions.

The funeral was sweet and unexpectedly calm. We sang and read scripture, Erinn gave a beautiful eulogy, and then many stories were respectfully and poignantly shared by members of Grumpy’s wide network of friends.

And the burial felt especially sacred. I had the privilege of driving three of the Grumpster’s friends to Meadowvale cemetery, where they acted as his pallbearers. Erinn read some scripture and spoke words of committal, acknowledging that our friend’s body was about to return to its earthy origins. We all took a handful of dirt, scattered it on the casket, and said our goodbyes. There was something so beautiful about seeing the three pallbearers engage in this ritual with such tenderness and open sadness; the same guys who so often feel the need to keep up a tough exterior.

I’m so grateful for the chance to celebrate Grumpy’s life together with his friends. The day reflected Grumpy well – fairly unorthodox, rough around the edges, and very very beautiful.

See you, Grumpster. You are missed.

20150914_151912

A farewell to Rams

Standard

Two weeks ago today, my friend Ramsey Whitefish’s life was brought to an abrupt end. There’s been a lot said about him in the last two weeks, and especially today at his memorial. There have been articles written about his murder, and about his gifts as an poet/actor. There have been a wide variety of thoughts about Ramsey shared on facebook, etc, which begin to paint a picture of the precious and extremely complex person that he was.

I haven’t said a lot about him on social media, except to share news articles. This is partly because I wasn’t nearly as close to him as many other people were. It’s also because I had a somewhat complicated relationship is Rams, and therefore my grief is also complicated. I know that I’m not alone in this. After being at his memorial today, though, I feel ready to say a few things about Ramsey myself.

I was equal parts fond of and frightened of Rams. He was hilarious, compassionate and smart. I’ll never forget the Sunday at Sanctuary, a couple of years ago, when he came over to give me a hard time (as he usually tried to do). I was working through something difficult at the time, and was crying. As soon as he realized that I was weepy his whole demeanor changed, from mischievous to pastoral. He came over, wiped the tears from my face, and smeared them onto his own. I can’t remember his exact words, but the general impression was one of genuine care, solidarity and comfort.

This same guy also genuinely scared me when he wasn’t doing well. I knew he would never intentionally cause me harm, but there were times when he was so not himself that I didn’t feel confident of my safety, or of the safety of those around us. He was also consistently disruptive during our church services at Sanctuary…but he was there. He didn’t write off church, but fully participated, in his own wacky, shit disturbing way. When he prayed it was often beyond beautiful… and then just as often turned bizarrely inappropriate. But then he would say “we’re all the same. One love! Miigwetch, miigwetch, miigwetch”.

The last time I saw Rams was a Sunday, three days before he died. I was carrying around a new baby, and he came over to admire her, and bug me. I feel sad to admit that I spent the rest of the service trying to avoid him, because I wanted to cuddle the baby and listen to the sermon in peace.

So, I’m not really sure how to say goodbye to this deeply troubled, deeply beautiful man. Rams, thank you for being my friend, for wiping away my tears, for sharing your poetry and your life. I’m sorry that I so easily lost patience with your antics, when I knew that they were symptoms of the pain you had experienced/ were experiencing. However, after hearing some stories today about your early years, it seems that you’ve always had a mischievous, trouble-making streak. I can see you now, giving me the middle finger and telling me to cut the crap. So… see you later, ya weirdo.

rams