On June 5th, we laid ten new leaves in front of DESC to join the 22 leaves already there. Reverend Pat Simpson led the dedication ceremony. Friends and family of the ten remembered chose the placement of the leaves, and then everyone was invited to the community room of the Morrison for refreshment, sharing in a viewing of photos of those being remembered.
After the ceremony, as leaves were being installed, a woman came up to one of us and said, “There are more. I have more friends from the Morrison who have died. We don’t have headstones.”
That is why we do this. That is why we work so hard for the Homeless Remembrance Project.
Following are the Reverend Pat Simpson’s words of blessing and photos of the event:
We are gathered here to remember ten fellow human beings who were homeless in our city and have died, laying down Leaves of Remembrance for them, to join the 22 others already honored here.
I am Rev. Pat Simpson, part of the Homeless Remembrance Project. Margaret King, Director of Housing Programs here at DESC, will also be speaking today.
On this busy sidewalk we have no way of knowing how many look down and wonder, “What are these names? Who were these people?”
The Leaves of Remembrance are meant to spark such questions. We have often recalled these words from the prophet Jeremiah:
Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which was brought upon me . . .
The leaves bear witness on our behalf: The sorrows and struggles of people living without a home are not nothing. There is courage on these streets as people bear their burdens. There is community, and hope. And all too often there is death at a young age, grief for family and friends who will never forget comrades they loved.
These words from poet Edna St. Vincent Millay speak of the loss:
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind . . .
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew
A formula, a phrase remains – but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Gathered here today we say “We are not resigned!” We say “Our city must not forget!” Those who pass by are called by these leaves to remembrance, to compassion, and to action. They cry out for justice, for shelter and safety.
Now we will lay down the leaves. If anyone here is a friend of someone listed in the program, would you like to have the honor of placing their leaf?
[See who comes forward . . .]
Now as we read the names of those we are honoring with these leaves, I invite you to respond after each one, “We remember you.”
We dedicate this leaf in memory of . . . We remember you!
May they rest in peace. May we never forget.
May we never be resigned to this dying.
Together we go forth knowing there is work to do – the work of compassion, advocacy and justice-making that will someday bring homelessness to an end. It is ours to accomplish together: housed and homeless, poor and rich, women and men, young and old. Let us go forth in determination and hope.