Remembering Rob.

This week is my birthday. On Febraury 2nd I’ll be turning twenty-six. It just so happens that this time last year on my birthday, a friend of mine named Rob passed away.

I knew Rob from my Sanctuary community. He would hang out at our community meals and art drop-in usually, reading in the corner and soon enough, painting at the tables with us. He loved to do these cool geometric pieces by using masking tape to make shapes, painting in between them, and then peeling the tape off. He also participated in our art workshops, where he created this cool stop-motion video of life in the animal kingdom, using cut out paper and animal crackers. We would joke around a lot during the making of that video and discovered our sense of humour was really similar, as well as our inability to sit still for long periods of time. We would get distracted easily together and starting eating the candy props meant for the videos.

Rob was a young guy. He was very hip, with a keen sense for fashion, and an ability to put an amazing outfit together effortlessly. He had this really great dry, sarcastic sense of humour that went well with his fun-loving personality. Rob was many things… smart, cool, talented, funny, witty, a good friend, generous, and fun. Rob also experienced homelessness, and was really quite ill near the time he passed away. He had finally been housed, and was doing well before falling ill again and staying in hospital before being called Home.

Rob

I found out about his death on February 3rd, 2018. I was on my way to a birthday brunch with Ian when my friend and coworker from Sanctuary called to tell me the news. They had spared me from finding out the day before, on my actual birthday. I cried on and off for hours that day, tearing up at the sight of things along our journey in the car that reminded me of my friend Rob. I often “see” him now in others passing by, doing a double take as I pass a stranger with features so similar to that of my friend’s.

There are many things I wish for. I wish that Rob had more time. I wish that I didn’t cry that day looking at the underside of bridges, knowing that he often slept outside. I wish I could have said goodbye. I wish more of my friends had adequate housing, that they could stay somewhere warm and safe. I wish the system wasn’t broken. And I wish I could sit with Rob one more time, painting and laughing at Sanctuary.

I will remember Rob this week as I celebrate my life, and that still feels like a surreal thing. I will remember all the ways he brought life and joy to his friends. I will lament his death and the broken system that made him live outside for a long time. And I will be grateful that I knew Rob, because he was pretty great.

In this video put together by my friend Lyf, you can see Rob’s appearance in “The Magician”, and his “Beef in the Kingdom” stop-motion near the end.

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On forgiveness.

I was standing in the large open room where we host our Monday community meal, chatting with someone at a table. Suddenly, like an animal in the wild, my ears perked up. A loud voice was nearby, and with that came a red flag. It didn’t sound like loud talking, it sounded like an argument. I excused myself from the conversation, but not in time to catch the argument before it began. There was commotion over a seat, a common blimp in our space as our friends pile in close to lunch to eat a home cooked meal with us. He was yelling at her, and she was sitting down – refusing to move her coat from an empty seat beside her. So I put my hand on his shoulder lightly to attract his attention to me, as speaking to him was getting me nowhere.

Big. Mistake. Lesson One – do not touch someone when they’re worked up. It probably won’t go over too well! I can admit that was a mistake on my end. His anger turned to me… “Don’t put your hands on me again or….” I’ll save you the threats and expletives. My hands went up in the air as I tried to backtrack and apologize at the same time. It didn’t work. After some more yelling and threats, our friend was asked to leave for the day – a way to let someone cool off outside our space, and let them know that what they did made the space unsafe.

I don’t tell you all this to paint our friend in any kind of bad light. He was denied an empty seat, something that I should have tried to rectify in another way. And I got in his personal space while he was fired up, a big mistake on my end. I tell you all this to paint a picture of a time I was threatened more than I ever have been. Luckily I know our friend enough to know that he would NEVER ever really hurt me. But to be spoken to in that way is a little jarring. I tell you this because for a long time after that incident, our friend wouldn’t speak to me, even after my half-hearted smiles in his direction, trying to close some kind of gap that had formed between us.

I should know by now that these things take time. Sometimes people need room. They need space to process, time to forgive, and opportunity to come back when they’re ready. For me and my friend, it happened on the day we were having our Epiphany party ironically enough. I was bundled up and walking through the cold wind that often forms in a tunnel on Queen Street. Walking quickly past all the usual spots, I saw our friends precariously placed through Parkdale going about their usual business. When I was approaching the LCBO, I noticed my friend standing outside the doors. I was nervous. This was the first time since the incident that I had seen him alone in the world, not with Jo or Erinn as a buffer. I looked at him and tried to smile as I said a quick hello. He made eye contact and just as I was passing, he said, “Hey, I need to talk to you.”

I stopped and turned around, my heartbeat quickening. “Sure, what’s up?” He said he had been meaning to talk to me for a while, and that since the incident he’s felt really weird coming into the space. I nodded, a signal that I too had felt the same. He opened his arms wide, a hug waiting for me – a peace offering. I hugged him back and he said, “You know I love you, right?” I said “I know, and I’m sorry about what happened. I never meant to hurt you.” An apology wrapped in a hug, and the truth. We parted ways after some back and forth and I walked the rest of the way to where Erinn and Jo waited for me, shivers running down my arms that had nothing to do with the cold.

I was amazed yet again by God’s grace, for me and my friend, and for our relationship. We needed time apart, and we needed an opportunity to come back together. We needed the love of the Creator, binding us together after harshness tried to rip us apart. I am in awe of the hearts of our friends, coming back time and time again when it would be easier to remain hard and angry. I am grateful for the love at The Dale, and the opportunity we get to walk alongside our friends everyday, learning new ways to love. If you are waiting for peace today, may you be encouraged that His timing is perfect, and that you are not forgotten.

It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!

christmas eve communion.

Hi friends,

Merry (belated) Christmas and a Happy (belated) New Year! Now that the Christmas vortex has hopefully slowed down for you, I know it can feel a little odd… like you don’t quite know what to do with yourself, and everything is a whole lot quieter. I have a Christmas memory from The Dale floating around in my head, and I wanted to document it here. Hopefully this helps bring a little joy to your new year and can help you remember that the joy of the season can be held onto and sprinkled into your life all year round.

On Christmas Eve, Jo, Erinn, myself, Erinn’s daughter Cate, and her friend went to visit a friend of ours who has recently been moved from his home in Parkdale, to a hospital, to a nursing home. “John” holds fast to his faith and can often be found praising God in every circumstance, but was naturally feeling a little lonely to be away from his home at Christmas. Before our outreach walk, we decided to visit him and do communion together, something that we knew would bring him joy.

John invited his new friend Dave from down the hall and we set up communion on his hospital-like table, placing a white cloth over it and adorning it with Erinn’s portable communion items… some grape juice and rice crackers from the Dollarama, a small bottle of port, and some golden dishes from her wicker basket. We prayed, and fed each other communion, passing the bread and wine and saying, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you.” It was a reminder of the reason for the season, that Jesus came as a baby, sent from God his Father to live with us here on Earth. It was a reminder of his life and how he suffered like we do, and ultimately died for us as a man for our sins.

John smiled and prayed with us, and after we decided to sing some songs together. His voice raised up in the room and through the hall. It is beautifully low and loud as he worships God, whom he puts all of his faith in. People came from down the hall to say they loved the singing and asked if we were from a choir! I had tears in my eyes as I stood watching John sing, sat in his wheelchair with his eyes lightly closed, singing proud for all to hear. I love that John loves God so much. He teaches me a lot and I love that he loves us, his Dale family. I am so grateful that we could see him for Christmas.

I can only hope that with that short visit, we brought John a piece of joy that day. I know that with that short visit my heart swelled ten sizes, and I was sure filled with joy. And I hope that He was looking down on us, pleased.


It would mean so much to me if you were able to partner financially with The Dale to support my role within this ministry. There are a number of ways to do this, including CanadaHelps, PAR, or cheque. Please reach out to me if you would like more information on partnering with me in this way. Thanks for your support!