When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
“Let it be”
We sing this song often at the Dale at many of our regular weekly gatherings. Usually it means nothing more to me than a Beatles song that I somehow know the words to. However this week, it has been more of a source of comfort.
There have been an increasing number of deaths in our community these past few months, most recently in the last two weeks. Finding myself still slowing walking into the community from the outside, I feel at odds with my emotions. Wanting to give space to our friends to grieve, I say little. But having connected with people more and more often, and losing them before deeper friendships can be made, is sad.
Compared to many colleagues that I have worked with, past and present, I have been in this line of work for what feels like a blink in time. Still during that time, many of my friends in community have passed on, all in differently heartbreaking ways. Having just passed my three month anniversary at the Dale, I find myself wondering how to do this work “well” for a long time, and how many of my co-workers have done that before me. There is no easy answer. Grief is hard to navigate.
As a collective group of people that work so closely in community, I feel like there is a common sort of sadness when we agree that when one of our friends passes on, it is not just them that leaves us. It is all our friends who have passed on before them leaving us again and again. We remember each with the loss of another, and that is a sad thing in and of itself. How do we remember each one well so that their life can carry on? There is no easy answer. Trying to remember so many friends who have left us is a heavy thing.
I have also found myself contemplating how much longer I can live and work in Parkdale when the relationships that we value building with our community run so deep. I cannot walk but five minutes to the market without running into a handful of community members, some in a good space and some not. I cannot walk but a few steps along my street before seeing the place where a friend recently left this world. In a neighbourhood that is already small, it is becoming more complicated to be so deeply rooted in Parkdale than I thought or hoped it would be. How do I live and work here and be well? There is no easy answer. Wanting to be so close, yet so far away is confusing.
All of the deaths of my friends have been the result of injustice. Homelessness, addictions, mental health stuff… the list is long and the system that we (try to) function in in our society is failing my friends. They are dying at the hands of violence, of sadness, of a lack of things that they need, of many things that could be prevented if we sought to serve people better. I have been reminded that through rough times, the work that we do is still good. It remains good when it feels bad. However, when times are heavy, I find myself questioning if this work is worth it. Is it worth it to keep pushing against a system that fails my friends daily? Are we doing enough, advocating enough, for things to be better? There is no easy answer. Wondering how to serve people better and well takes time, and in that time, people are still dying.
Sometimes I wish I was older, that I had worked longer, that I knew more than I know now. I wish my connections with people ran deeper and longer, so that I could soak up their goodness before their time with us ran up. I wish people weren’t sad, and that they knew that they were loved deeply. I wish people weren’t in so much pain when I walk through my neighbourhood and see people living in their brokenness. I wish this work was easy.
But the reality is that this work is not easy. There will always be many questions and times of second guessing. There also are and will continue to be good things – when agencies come together to bring justice, when small steps to good things happen, when people are freed from their struggles, when we sing together and smile.
We ask for your prayer as this season continues to be heavy. We ask for wisdom and peace, and that the hands of God be ours as we serve our friends. And we ask for patience as we push though hard questions that have no easy answers.
And when the brokenhearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer
Let it be.