What’s with the Rock

The opening of the London Homeless Memorial generated some negative press.  However, I received a message through facebook that serves to remind me why we took this project on in the first place.  I have redacted any identifying information.

“Hello Abe, sorry to write you on facebook, but the UWO server appears to be down, and I am far too impatient to wait for that.

My name is xxxxxxxx, and I am a former resident of London, but am currently living in xxxxxxxxx. A friend of mine sent me the recent article about the unveiling of the monument dedicated to those who have lost their lives to homelessness in London. I’m sure you have received many messages of people telling you their stories and you know what you’ve done is good thing, but I wouldn’t be able to rest of I didn’t send you my own story and personally thank you.

In 2005, a man’s lifeless body was found on a bench in xxxxxx Park. He was identified and my phone rang, and my life was forever changed. The man was my father, and after five years of life on the streets, my father succumbed to the toll it takes on your body (especially at 50, he died 5 days short of his 50th birthday). My dad being homeless was just something we accepted, and moved on with our lives. We still had a father/daughter relationship, still met for coffee, still played guitar in the park. He still loved me and let me know every chance he got, I was still “Daddy’s little girl”, and thought the world of him. Of course I worried about him daily and nightly, and of course I wanted to change his situation, but at 16, I felt helpless, and just learned to let my dad be who he wanted to be.

My dad was bi-polar, and was in a very reclusive state, and I had lived through that before, I knew with every low there would be a high, I knew that after this down, he would come up again, it had to go up. I never, ever thought that my super hero dad, who proved time and again that he could do anything, would die homeless and alone on a bench. In the years following my dad’s death (it was just the 8th anniversary), I have felt a lot of resentment to anyone who would have passed him and spat negative remarks, or turned up their nose at him. I have felt guilt for not helping, as well as animosity towards the people of London for not helping. I know the programs in place in London are great, and I know that a lot is being done, but I continue to feel that my dad was left out.

The recent monument that has been erected makes me feel like there are people that do know the tragedies that happen, the lives that are lost, people that care about those that have died alone. The monument is not just for those who are gone, but their family members that are still here, with the guilt and sadness felt for their deaths. My family couldn’t afford a tombstone for my dad’s burial, and I feel now, that with your help, my father has something that was put up in his memory, something put up with dignity and respect to honour a fallen superhero.

With great feelings of gratefulness,

xxxxx”

London Homeless Memorial

3 thoughts on “What’s with the Rock

  1. A few years ago, my boyfriend and I went for a walk by the Thames River, west of Wharncliffe Road. The river was very low and we were wandering on the river bed when a flash of red in a tree caught my eye further east. I tried to get closer to see what it was, a Great Blue Heron. I don’t know why it looked red, maybe it caught the light.
    On the ground by my feet I discovered a number of articles that indicated somebody had been there overnight. There were some items of clothing, a burned down candle, a few garbage bags tied with rope, a stack of envelopes, a sock stuffed with something that looked like rice, a doll magnet, female deodorant, mascara, a tampon, a piece of paper with instructions on how to give a ‘blowjob’ without contracting HIV or Aids, plastic vials of liquid, and a ziploc bag of dozens of pills. We called the police to dispose of the drugs.
    About a week later there was a story in the news about a woman’s body found in the river near Wonderland Road, about a mile from this spot. My boyfriend thought it was a coincidence. I thought it was the owner of these items. For several months we went back to this spot on our regular walk by the river and deposited a stone at the site where we found these items. This is a Jewish tradition. We talked about commemorating this spot in a more permanent way. It is now completely overgrown and difficult to identify.
    I was very grateful to hear of this project, to know that others share in the sorrow at the passing of someone whose life was filled with much sadness and despair.

  2. Thank you for sharing this powerful story. It is heart-warming to know that others think about those on the margins who die mostly ignored.

  3. I hope one day no homeless person has to buried in an unmarked grave and that a tombstone is one day approved in funeral and burial costs under discretionary benefits.

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