Monthly Archives: July 2017

Dreaming and grieving

Standard

I never used to remember my dreams.

In the last few years, though, they have been more vivid, and more of them have stuck with me after I awake. Sometimes these dreams are a bizarre mash-up of things that I’m thinking about, and I don’t read too much into them. Others are about things that I fear and are a little too realistic, leaving me feeling tired and upset when I wake up. Thankfully these are relatively rare.

And occasionally I have dreams that are lovely at the time and heart-wrenching afterward, because they are about friends that I have lost from Sanctuary or The Dale. I’ll dream that these friends are alive and well, and I’m so happy to see them. Then I wake up and realize that they are still gone. These dreams are hard, but they also give me hope. They give me a glimpse of how wonderful it will be to see my friends in the Kingdom, when death is put to death once and for all.

The most vivid of these dreams occurred quite a while ago, but it frequently comes to mind, especially now that we at The Dale are in another season of grief.

In this dream I was standing in the parking lot at Sanctuary chatting with a group of people. Then Terra walked up, a woman around my age who died the day before my birthday, 4 years ago. In real life I had told her that I hoped to do outreach with her one day, knowing that she had been engaged in street outreach at one point.

In the dream she told us that there had been a mistake, and that it wasn’t her that had died that day. She had moved a few hours away, made a major life turn-around, and had been working at a community center. She looked SO healthy, and SO happy. She had just come back to Sanctuary to tell us that she was doing great.

The next thing I knew, there were a whole bunch of people in the parking lot who [we thought] had died… Iggy, Mark, Fred, Cliff. It was the most beautiful thing. Then we casually parted ways, knowing that we’d be seeing more of each other soon.

Waking up from that dream was the saddest thing. But like I said, it also gives me hope.

I’ve been thinking a lot about grieving, and how to do it well when there’s sometimes no time to breathe between deaths. I think that these dreams are a way that my subconscious is helping me to process the deaths of my friends, and are therefore a means of grace.

So, when these dreams come I will receive them as bitter sweet gifts; reminders to keep on grieving and hoping.

 

Advertisements

John

Standard

This week has been a tough one. Just days after having Nicole’s death confirmed, we learned that our friend John had also died.

John was a genuine kind of guy. A couple of years ago he was quite a constant presence at The Dale. He was going through a very difficult time, and would come into our Monday drop-in to talk things out. He was very open about the depth of his pain, and also about his appreciation of our community. He and his partner at the time were known to describe The Dale as a place to come and “get your calm on”. This made and makes me really happy.

Over the last few years John had been doing better, and we didn’t see him quite so much. When I did see him on the street he would always stop, ask how I was, beam his smile at me, and when we were parting ways he would almost always say, “take it eeeeeeasy.” He had a way of making me feel that taking it easy may actually be possible… If he could, then I could too.

I’m really going to miss seeing John around the neighbourhood. And I’m glad that he was able to get out to the east coast to be with his family before he passed away.

John, may you deeply enjoy taking it eeeeeeasy, from now on.

 

 

Nicole

Standard

Nicole was special.

The first time I met her was at our Wednesday morning art and breakfast drop in a few years ago. She sat in the corner, quietly creating beautiful pen and marker drawings. She would eat breakfast, continue drawing, and then slip out. It took a number of weeks before we had a conversation, and even then it was short. It was soon obvious to me that Nicole was a woman of deep intelligence, courage, creativity, and carefully hidden pain.

Over the months Nicole gradually opened herself up, sharing some of that hidden pain with us. She also shared her art, her entrepreneurial dreams, and her incredible smile. Even when she was struggling mightily, she would look me in the eye and ask how I was doing.

Nicole and her partner came up to camp with The Dale last fall. They were newly dating, and it was very sweet to see them caring tenderly for one another. Nicole worked tirelessly on a big jigsaw puzzle and delighted in its completion, even though a few pieces were missing. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a beautiful result of a joyful communal effort.

For the last number of months Nicole and her partner have been homeless. This was a massive source of stress for Nicole. She had a number of treasured possessions that she asked us to keep safe for her, including a large, beautiful painting of Paris that she dreamed of hanging in her new place. She also asked me to keep a small vile of a loved one’s ashes safe for her, and I still have it in a special corner of my wallet.

Every death at The Dale makes me sad, but Nicole’s death also makes me angry. While there were a huge number of stressors in her life, homelessness did not need to be one of them. And from the outside looking in, it seemed that homelessness was the final straw for her. She had a huge network of people from various community organizations who loved her and were seeking out a safe place for her live. And the reality of the affordable housing situation in Toronto is such that she was left waiting and hoping for something that may not have materialized for another number of months. This is wrong. This city should not have homeless deaths. Full stop.

Nicole, you are very very missed and very very loved. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Know that we’ll keep advocating for a solution to the needless homelessness that you experienced. Rest well, friend.

Super not

Standard

At The Dale we talk a lot about being a community where everyone is acknowledged as being a person with gifts to give as well as areas of struggle. When explaining this to people who are just learning about the Dale, we are very clear that this applies to those of us who hold positions of leadership. But if you hang out with us long enough, you’ll learn that the last statement goes without saying.

For example, I have a pretty bad memory. And the community knows it.

I like to blame it on the memorize-and-forget style of learning that I picked up during my undergrad degree (I’ve forgotten pretty much everything I ever knew about biology, chemistry and definitely physics). Or I blame it on genetics–a family trait that my Dad calls “benevolent amnesia”. But the fact remains, I often have the memory of a goldfish.

Folks in the community have adapted to my poor memory, and will call me up to remind me of things. Last summer I was sitting in a park in Nova Scotia when a community member called to remind me to cancel our Second Harvest delivery for the week. Another friend, for whom I run errands, put “memory enhancer” at the top of his shopping list. Concerned, I asked if he’s been forgetting things…and he said “no, that’s for you!” Ha.

This may seem like a silly example, but my inability to keep track of things without writing them down is, among my other areas of struggle, a very constant (and sometimes embarassing) reminder that I am anything but super human. I’m super NOT.  As a people-pleaser who always wants to do the right thing by everybody, it kind of kills me that I drop the ball regularly. And I love that my community and fellow staff members are patient with me, and help me out.

We all have gifts to give, and areas of struggle. Wait, did I already say that? 😉