Hey Ash. I’m still finding it really hard to fathom that you’re not here anymore. You left really suddenly, and none of us saw it coming. There are SO many people who miss you, and are aching from your absence.
The first time I met you was probably 8 or 9 years ago. You were in a pretty rough space, and you knew that you had some major struggles coming around the corner. I wanted to help, and the only thing you asked for was a Bible; a lifeline to hold onto in the storms that were coming.
I didn’t see much of you for a while after that. When you returned to Parkdale, you were doing SO much better. You had a lot of supports, and you were really leaning into them. You started spending a lot of time with us at The Dale, volunteering and participating in various ways.
Then COVID happened, and we didn’t see you for a bit. We had to figure out how to run our lunch and breakfast drop-ins outside and to-go. It felt really crummy to have to ask people to line up for meals, when we have chosen to sit around tables to eat together. But we had to, and that was that.
We tried lots of things to make the line ups more Dale-ish (spreading ourselves out along the line to chat with people, etc). A kind person, Brad, came along and helped us to serve the meals for the first few months of COVID, which was really great.
Then you turned back up, and wanted to start volunteering again. This coincided with our new friend Brad needing to step back from volunteering with us. So you became the person who helped us set up, and hand out the meals on Mondays and Thursdays. You also helped us set up for church when we met outside under a tent. If someone showed up late and there weren’t enough chairs, you would quietly fetch another one and make sure the newcomer had space to sit and belong.
We really came to rely on you, and were so grateful for your presence. Whenever you were away, we would ask “okay, so who wants to ‘Ash’ today?” The role that you played at The Dale went far deeper than “food server” or “chair fetcher”– you helped us to feel like us. We have always wanted to involve as many people as possible in the running of our programming, and COVID took that away from us. But when you showed back up and started helping out, the COVID-era Dale felt more like The Dale.
There are many ways that you contributed to the life of The Dale, and to the lives of your friends, but this is the thing I want to thank you for today. Thank you for helping us through this pandemic, in so many ways. We miss you, and we love you.