Tomorrow we are having a funeral for our friend Will.
I can’t really believe he is gone. In fact, I keep “seeing” him- on the corner by the library or walking down Queen Street. For a split second I think the last two weeks have been a dream, but of course they are not.
Will had been sick and knew things were getting worse. He asked me and Joanna to hold Power of Attorney for him last fall. At the time we didn’t have any idea he would be gone so soon. Or maybe I wanted to believe that Will, like so many of my friends in Parkdale, would surely keep beating the odds. Sometimes there is an invincibility to people who have already survived so much.
Will wasn’t connected to a single blood relative. Instead, he had a chosen family, many of whom he first met as Nurses and Community Workers. This little network, which I am humbled to say included me and Joanna, were home for Will. A small group of us shared the difficult privilege of being at Will’s side as he took his last breath. As wrong as it felt to be saying goodbye, it was exactly right that we could be there.
I am preparing to co-lead a workshop at a conference this Friday about partnership. I think that for me, one of Will’s legacies is that he was able to bring together people from a variety of places to work together on his behalf. His service will be held at Epiphany and St Mark Anglican and led by The Dale along with Elder Vern Harper (Will was Ojibwa). Friends from the Parkdale and South Riverdale Community Health Centres are doing the refreshments. A woman from Liebenzell Mission will manage the food and drink throughout the visitation. Many will serve as pallbearers. Partnership is a beautiful thing.
Will- you are missed, you are loved and I pray that now you are fully at home. I will be looking for you around the neighbourhood. I might not see you, but I will see your mark.
Sometimes something happens at The Dale that I immediately want to share here, but realize a little time needs to pass before I can. I endeavour to be careful in my storytelling, for the things I write about are non-fiction. I seek permission before I write and quite often, though not always (depending on the situation) change or leave out names and other identifying features. The following happened last year.
A friend came into the Monday Drop-In skittish and looking for me. This person’s long time partner had died nearly a month before and I’d been concerned that we hadn’t seen much of one another since that day. I immediately knew something was very wrong.
I learned that morning how my friend hadn’t been able to cope with the death. None of the necessary arrangements had been made and the deceased remained unclaimed at the hospital. My heart broke for both my friends: the one enveloped by grief and the one needing a dignified end. I promised that I would help take care of things.
Over the next number of days I had countless conversations with the hospital, a funeral home and the city. I sat on my couch one night overwhelmed with sadness that had The Dale not gotten involved, the deceased would have been buried in an unmarked grave. No one believed (including the partner) that next of kin would be located, but I shockingly managed to find them. In six days everything was sorted out and I finally exhaled the breath that I think I’d been holding since the Drop-In.
As I recount this story I think about the gravity of the situation and how precious it was to be invited in. This kind of thing happens all too often. Did you know the city has a burial place for people who in death are left nameless? For a variety of reasons I can’t share my friend’s name here, but that is not because it is forgotten, not by The Dale and certainly not God. It is a name that will forever be etched on my heart.
We are excited to share the news that thedale.org is live!
Thank you to my friend Jacob Buurma of Vibrant Content for designing a site that reflects who we are and what we’re doing so well. Jacob is a thoughtful, patient and creative force.
A special shout-out to Scott Boniface of Playground who helped a small team of us fashion the name “The Dale Ministries” and designed our logo in 2013. I now appreciate how difficult it is to bring identity to an organization and will always be grateful for Scott’s direction.
Thank you to our many supporters. It is because of all of you that we can continue to be a community without walls.
Finally, thank you to every single person who considers themselves a part of The Dale. Life together is messy, good and so full of light.