We didn’t even get to say goodbye. I didn’t know you would be taken from us so soon. You made our circle feel full, complete. Until we got the news. The emptiness that is created feels familiar, so familiar – like I felt this pain in my chest a thousand times before; thousand headlines before; a thousand kids before; a thousands homeless souls without a roof before. And like before, we didn’t event get to say goodbye.
Your childhood, if we could call it that, was short. You did a great job taking care of your little cousins and siblings when the adults needed help – being the mommy or the uncle when the little ones needed it. But you too were taken. Into the care of another, more qualified to love and nurture your gifts. More capable of showing you how to ride a bike, or how to shave than we were. We missed you, but the world never missed out on a single opportunity to tell our family how broken we were, making us feel like giving you up was the right and only choice we had. Wrong. It continues to be hard watching you grow up at a distance – ashamed of our flaws and insecure in our abilities to parent. My relative, I want you to know that you deserve to play like the other children, in the sunshine or in the water, while you laugh with your cousins and run with your friends. You deserve all the kisses and the hugs that you never recieved. You deserve a family that stands by you ferociously – through the turbulence of growing. You deserve a village that honours your special talents and above all else, reminds you that there is a place for you here, where you are needed and valued.
If as an adult you find yourself without a home know this: you belong with us. We are the village, your relatives and your neighbours. You, without a postal code, or a mailing address are still a part of our circle and when you are down, so are we. When you are hungry there’s an emptiness inside of us – when you are hurting the pain resonates through our bones. It hurts to watch the addictions as they consume – so completely, you can hardly hear my words of concern or my offers of support. I want to help, but am afraid that any assistance given will only hurt. The resilience you demonstrate on a daily basis is inspiring. You care for and engage with people on the street that most would walk by, or be afraid of. When we take the moments to listen, the secret to our cultures, the earthy sounds of indigenous languages are still alive on those streets with you. My relative, you are not forgotten, and though I haven’t figured out what I can do yet to help end homelessness in this city, know that many are working as hard as brain and body will allow to find you a safe place to be.
Why do we have to lose something precious before we realize its value? My hope is that our community continues to realize how special each of us are to one another without having to lose another relative. My hope is that we address the hundreds of Winnipeggers each night who don’t have a place to stay. I hope we can work together to increase supports for people battling with the monster of addiction – especially our youth. I hope we can create a family of choice for the 10,000 children in care in Manitoba – a family that does more than tell them they are loved, respected and valued; that proves it to them with their actions. I don’t want there to have to be more tragedy before the village wakes up and reclaims its role – as a place where everyone’s gifts are honoured and required. We couldn’t do those things in time to keep you here – and for that all of our hearts are breaking. These are my words – me sharing my gift – to tell you that you are loved and we will continue to work to prevent any more of our relatives being taken from us too soon. I hope we can honour the gifts you did share with us, by sharing them with others.
[the above letter was written as an expression of grief, love, healing, after learning about the untimely deaths of Faron Hall and Tina Fontaine August 18, 2014]