It was a lovely bright fall afternoon Sunday, October 13, when almost 100 people gathered at the southwest corner of Ballard Commons Park to dedicate 25 new Leaves of Remembrance. Some were from the faith community, social services, and various professions. Many were homeless, there to honor friends loved and lost on the streets. One woman walked to Ballard from downtown Seattle, for the chance to see her friends publicly recognized with a bronze Leaf.
Several people laid sprigs of rosemary on each friend’s Leaf. At the end of the day, every Leaf had a sprig of rosemary beside it. One man laid a lit cigarette by his friend’s Leaf. An impromptu memorial of fall leaves and a feather stood by another set of Leaves.
A homeless woman who spoke said that the friends she had lost had never had a tombstone or a grave marker with their name, where she could go to mourn for them. Now they did; she clapped her hand on one Leaf after another, calling out “HERE, and HERE, and HERE…”
This was why I have been with both the Women in Black and the Homeless Remembrance Project since we began. This was what we wanted to give our community. The day I saw a dear friend’s name on the Medical Examiners “unclaimed remains” list, those who would be buried in a common grave with no individual name, I cried for not having a physical place where she was claimed – where her name was permanently honored.
One of the Leaves being laid Sunday was for the cousin of one of the first members of the Homeless Remembrance Project. Through tears, she said that this day brought home even more deeply the need and blessing of the Leaves of Remembrance.
Twenty-five more people are claimed as beloved members of our community. When our whole community claims every person as beloved, we will end homelessness. Until then, we will name each one we lose.
We will lay more Leaves next summer at the Central Library and the University District, and add Leaves to existing sites. You can send a Leaf request to firstname.lastname@example.org or PO Box 2548 Seattle, WA 9811.