On June 18th, more than 80 people gathered to lay down and bless three new Leaves of Remembrance around Ballard Commons Park. They were homeless, once-homeless and never-been-homeless people gathered together, and the feeling of community love and spirit was extraordinary and profound. Early on, a Bridge Care Center worker had to go across the street to St. Luke’s church to fetch a box of Kleenex. Through the afternoon, many tears of grief and joy were shed.
The Ballard dedication timeline was driven by a special request made by Evelyn and Brian Gooch, parents of Dana “Fish” Gooch, whose Leaf was laid that day. Just two days after the Dedication Ritual, the Gooch parents were leaving Seattle, to enjoy their retirement in Arizona. They said goodbye to Seattle—and their beloved son—at our Leaf-laying Ritual.
We were blessed to watch them speak to their son through our Leaf for him, and also to witness them reaching out the hands of loving kindness to all of his friends and street family. It was wrenching to watch Fish’s parents say their final goodbyes.
Although they couldn’t always be together, Dana “Fish” Gooch never abandoned his family, nor they him. Dozens of Gooches were at the Dedication: his ex-partner, nieces, nephews, siblings and wonderfully community-centered parents. “Fish” was a special one, and many beautiful stories about his generosity and love were told.
Roger Andrews and Michael Franklin were also honored with Leaves at Ballard Commons, and friends and family came to remember their lives. One hilarious story, shared by a Ballard Foodbank staffer, involved the ever-entreprenurial Roger finding an abandoned commercial dryer in the parking lot of an industrial area in Ballard. “Wow,” Roger thought to himself, “it’d be great to sleep inside this dryer because, well, at least I’ll be dry!” This worked like a charm, but only until a delivery truck parked in front of the front-loading dryer door, preventing Roger’s exit-upon-awakening. It took a long time—Roger banging and shouting—before someone came, moved the truck, and finally let Roger out of his dry sleeping spot.
Not many stories about Michael were shared, since he was a very private and proud person who died alone in his RV in south Ballard. When it came time to select the placement location for his Leaf, Ballard outreach volunteer Jenn Adams said, “Well, this’ll be hard, since he didn’t like ANYBODY!” Eventually we found a semi-private sidewalk patch for Michael’s Leaf, alongside two folks he found tolerable in his lifetime. And so it goes.
Towards the end of the Dedication, Brian Gooch said—sweeping his arms around the large gathered crowd—“I thank each of you for every extra month, week, day, minute you gave our son with your love!”
May we take that as our marching order—to do the best we can shelter our homeless brothers, sisters, moms, dads, and children with love.