Monthly Archives: September 2017

A final farewell

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Our friend Nicole has been gone for a couple of months now. I wrote about her here shortly after she died. Her death has been a particularly difficult one for the community, me included. Until last week I hadn’t been able to bring myself to bike or walk past the location of her death, despite the fact that it is on my usual route between Parkdale and home. I simply found a different route.

Then, last Tuesday Erinn and I were in her car, and drove past the spot together. We had a good cry, and prayed. Later that day Meagan, Erinn and I went to the spot together, buried a treasured possession of Nicole’s that she had given to us, and prayed some more.

The next day we saw Nicole’s partner at drop in, and he told us that he had gone to visit her grave on that same Tuesday. I knew that her birthday was in September, but I had the 21st pegged in my mind as the date. However, unsurprisingly, my memory did not serve me correctly. Tuesday September 19th, the day that we visited the site of Nicole’s untimely death, would have been her 43rd birthday.

I am grateful that, despite my poor memory, we ended up remembering and honouring Nicole on her birthday. I am grateful that her partner was doing well enough to have made it out to the cemetery that same day. I am grateful for a little bit more closure.

Nicole has left a hole in our hearts and our community. My prayer is that we (all of us) continue to grieve well.

 

The site of our little unofficial memorial

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Prayers of the people

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Folks at The Dale often have a way of expressing themselves with a searing kind of authenticity that sometimes leaves me breathless.

As I think I’ve probably written here before, one of my favourite times of the week is community prayer time at The Dale’s Sunday service. This past Sunday was no exception. A new friend, who has only been to a handful of Dale events, prayed this prayer: “God, thank you for seeking me out. I know that I sometimes look away, but I’m trying to look toward you.”

Another friend who has been an integral part of the community for many years recently asked Erinn, Meagan and me to come and help them clean up their apartment. So last week we spent an hour and a half sorting and pitching, sweeping and wiping. This friend has experienced a huge amount of loss and trauma, is currently quite ill, and despite our efforts is still living in less than ideal conditions. Yet, this friend prayed these words with utter sincerity: “God thank you that I can walk around my house again. Thank you that Erinn and Joanna and Meagan and You came through for me. And everyone here… Thank you that we’re a community that loves each other. I’m not going to ask you for anything, because I already have everything.”

Amen. Thanks be to God.

Camp

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This past weekend about thirty of us from The Dale went up to Camp Koinonia. It was an adventure, from start to finish!

This year we had a number of strong personalities on the trip, and a couple of folks with significant mental health struggles. The combination of these factors led to some tension on the bus ride up, a few spectacular blow-ups during the weekend, and more tension on the bus ride back (which also involved getting a flat tire on Highway 400). Good times.

That being said, all of these tense situations were handled in the moment, everyone stayed safe, and the difficult moments were far outnumbered by the beautiful ones.

One of my favourite parts of the weekend happened on the Saturday afternoon. As I wrote in my last blog, I had promised a friend (Kim) that I would paddle across the lake while she swam. In the end, another friend, Tim, did the paddling, and Erinn and I joined Kim in the water! It was chilly, refreshing and wonderful. A large-ish group of folks cheered us on from the shore as we swam from the camp beach to a rocky point partway across the lake and back again. Meagan and her fiance Ian paddled out to heckle us, and Cate (Erinn’s daughter) made her way out on a paddle board to accompany us on the way back. It was great.

Another beautiful period of time was during a hike into the forest behind the camp. We enjoyed some amazing scenery, breathed lots of fresh air, got a tiny bit lost, and found our way back to the trail. After returning from the hike, a community member who had never been up to camp with us before said that it felt like a whole other world, being out in the woods like that. Her face was glowing with joy and hard-earned perspiration.

At the end of the weekend a number of people said they’d like to stay up north forever 🙂 Despite the difficult moments, we were reminded again how important it is to take some time out of the city, as a community. Looking at the stars, singing campfire songs, working on puzzles, being outside almost all day… These are good, good things, for which we are collectively grateful.

Returning from the big swim!

Back in the saddle

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Happy autumn! I/we are back in the swing of things at The Dale, after a very full summer and then some time away.

Thanks to the generosity of a dear friend, she and I were able to spend the last couple of weeks away from our regular lives, doing some traveling: exploring, reading, hiking, thinking, swimming, praying, eating and resting. This time away was a gift in so many ways, and I’ve come back feeling grateful and refreshed. I am also grateful for Meagan, whose presence at the Dale made it possible for me and Erinn to have overlapping holidays for the first time ever (without The Dale being closed the whole time)!

I spent some time reflecting on the first thirty years of my life while I was away, and marveling at the fact that I get to do what I love for my job…and that I’ve been doing this work at the Dale for five years now! Half a decade of life in community: learning from each other and from God (often through each other), laughing even in the midst of hard things, getting frustrated with each other and seeking to work through it, grieving with and for each other, seeing changes in one another. What a ride it has been, and will continue to be!

This weekend we’re heading up to Camp Koinonia in Parry Sound for our annual fall retreat. About thirty of us will pile into a school bus with all of our stuff, and spend a few days up north. This is some of our folks’ only chance to be out of the city all year, so it’s a pretty special time. We’ll go for hikes, go paddling, and have camp fires. Some of us will go fishing, and some others will go swimming. I’ve already promised to paddle alongside a friend who would like to swim across the lake! If you think of us, please pray/send good thoughts for safety and harmony.

After the retreat is over, the next big Dale event will be the Ride for Refuge on September 30th! This bike ride/walk has become our annual fundraiser for our general budget (which comes entirely from donations). If you would like to join us on the 30th, we would love to bike or walk with you!! You can register at:

https://rideforrefuge.org/register

If you’re not able to join us but can donate, you can do that here:

https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/TeamFundraisingPage.aspx?teamID=768324&langPref=en-CA

Again, happy autumn everyone. May this season be full of apple cider, cozy sweaters, and fresh perspectives.