I got a call early this past Sunday morning to let me know that my friend James Smith had died in the early hours of Saturday morning. He was a member of the other community I call home, Sanctuary. James had called Sanctuary and it’s people family for almost as long as my lifetime. Upon first hearing the news, I thought that James had gone to rest after long battles with his health. However, to my shock and confusion, James was murdered just after midnight early Saturday morning.

It is hard to discuss the details of James death, and think about the man who has been arrested as a suspect, so I will spare you the details as you can find them on the news. I will however share a little about James here as a way to remember him, and share a photo. The description and photo they used on the news was undignifying and not an accurate description of the gem that was James Smith.

I met James almost six years ago when I first started hanging out at Sanctuary as a student. He has (and will always remain in my mind) been seen sitting on the steps of Sanctuary or along the side fence, hanging out with his pals. James was a fixture at Sanctuary, someone I thought would always be there, somehow. We didn’t have a lot of long conversations, but that was something I liked about my relationships with James – I could often sit beside him quietly and comfortably and not say too much at all. James was thoughtful and loyal, and really funny. He had these sayings that cracked people up, and a wide grin and chuckle that would make all his face whiskers stand out. I always picture him sitting outside McDonalds, and if I asked if he wanted something he would blurt out, “A cheeseburger!” and flash that grin right at me. It was hard to miss.

I could say a lot more, but some things are better left to memory. There are a lot, a lot of people who have a James sized hole in their hearts this week, and forever. He had many friends, and impacted a world of people with his sweet smile and charm. James was many things, but he was especially a friend. I walked by the homeless memorial yesterday which can be found inside the Church of the Holy Trinity behind the Eaton Centre. I looked at the last page of the memorial and saw James Andrew Smith, the very bottom name on the list. As I looked up further on the list, I saw a handful of other folks that I know that have passed, and that was only one page of a memorial that is growing each week. The one thought that has been granting me some elements of peace this week is imagining James entering the gates of Heaven, humbly greeting his creator which he was ready to do. I picture him walking upright and well, something he was struggling with lately. I see him greeting his friends, all the ones that have gone already that we miss here on earth. I imagine them all together, no longer sick and hurting.

James was killed. He was taken swiftly and unfairly. As a community, we will never get the goodbye we long for. We will never see him on our steps again. We will never be able to get him a cheeseburger and see his amazing smile. There are so many things left undone. I hope that James is safe and comfortable. He will be missed down here, there is no doubt about that. May he rest easy.

A photo of James and I from a few years ago close to when I started at Sanctuary.