Photo by Janet Best
It would be unfathomable for most us to think of losing 15 members of our family in a year’s time. Yet, for those who are among the family of St Michael’s Mission, that’s the reality of the loss they came together to mourn on June 23rd. The service, a first of its kind in the mission, was held to honor nine men and six women who had died on the streets in the last 14 months. Close to 60 people attended; all of whom felt the loss of their brethren acutely. A table was set with flowers and photos of those who had died.
Annie Anthony Ariel Bernadette Bullet Carole Daniel
Don Jacques Kim Leah Lenny Mark Tony T-Red
Ron’s brother was among those being remembered. He and his brother, Tony, both homeless, would meet up every day at 4pm to figure out where they would sleep that night; until the afternoon that Tony didn’t show up. His brother later saw the ambulance and nearby body bag in the middle of the street, where he had been hit by a truck. Ron said softly; “He was more than my brother. He was my friend.”
Ron didn’t have the means to give his brother a traditional burial or even hold a service. He decided to donate his brother’s body to medicine; the only option he could afford. It was this situation that inspired director George Greene to have a service for those who might otherwise not be able to. As George explained; “we wanted to do this because it’s important that they (the clients of the mission) know that their lives will be recognized in this dignified way.”
To open the service, George said “I see the loneliness we all wear as we think about the lives we lost. We are all one. We all have a soul. Take part and we’ll feel better about those we’ve lost and about ourselves.”
The Reverend Elizabeth Welch said prayers and heartfelt condolences as she emphasized that we are all equal in God’s eyes. She offered her time to speak one-on-one with anyone wanting help with their grief. She then read names of those who were lost; and lit a candle in their honor. As those present silently mourned, the precariousness of life on the street became palpable.
The clients and staff members then shed tears and laughter as they shared stories of those who passed. As the service ended, George reminded them that “the Mission has been here for 90 years and will always be here for you - even after you are gone.”