Tag Archives: Longest night of the year

The Longest Night of the Year. We remember.

We gathered in the early evening darkness, the city a constant hum of traffic on the streets surrounding us. We gathered and we held our tiny flickering candle lights and listened to the sounds and stood in the silence. Remembering.

We remembered.

People who have walked the streets, stood on corners and asked for change and slept in alleyways and city parks or a mat on the floor in a shelter.

We remembered.

The laughter and the tears. The good times and the bad.

We remembered.

The friendship. The camaraderie. The stories told and those not shared.

We remembered.

Moments we shared. Moments we knew about. And the stories we never knew of where they’d been before. Of where they’d come from before this thing called ‘homeless’ hit.

And as we remembered, as we carried the light in the darkness, the city moved around us, a sibilant, hissing stream of traffic carrying people to and fro the places they needed to be, wanted to go, had to get to.

And we stood surrounded by tall buildings looming in the dark, their windows lit, lights glistening. And our voices called out the names of those we’d lost. Our voices spoke their names into the night and for a moment, their names lit up the darkness and in the stillness between each breath, hearts beat in time, candles glowed and we were one.

Last night, we held the first Longest Night of the Year, a memorial service for those who have passed away in homelessness. About 50 people gathered in a downtown city park to stand together and speak the names of those they knew who had passed away and to write them on a large framed poster.

And one woman came to the mic and spoke of her brother who she’d lost to the streets. They had lived together on the streets. She spoke of gang wars and drugs and fighting and hurting people and lashing out at those who passed by who never saw her, who didn’t know her name but who still chose to call her names and mock her and her brother for their baggy clothes and angry ways. She didn’t care, back then when her brother was alive. She only cared about blocking out the pain, numbing the fear, burying her past. And then, her brother died a violent death.

We must stop the violence, she said. Stop the violence.

And she’s right. We, all of us, must. Stop the violence.

It was a night of remembering and a night of promising to do better. To do more to ensure we do not lose more of us to the dark. We do not lose our way completely.

And we stood together so that we do not forget those who have left who once walked our streets. So we do not forget they once lived amongst us. That they once laughed and joked and told stories and shared a cigarette, a last meal, a last smile.

And I wondered, what if we saw them/this differently?

What if we, the privileged ones, the ones with homes and jobs and places to go, stopped our busy just to see those who walk amongst us with no fixed address as other than ‘homeless’?

What if, we do not see them as ‘other than’ but as all of us?

What if we took time to remember, this is our world, one planet, one earth. One home. For all of us. And we are each responsible for one another. We are all one.


To read more about the Longest Night of the Year:




Remembering those who never made it home.

longest night


There are a thousand roads leading into homelessness, but only two leading out of it. One leads home. The other leads to the grave.

On Monday, December 21 we will gather as a community to remember those whose road out of homelessness ended with their last breath.

We will remember. And together we will say, “You are not forgotten.”

It is hard in this place called, ‘homeless’ to remember that there are those who miss you, remember you, want to know where you are. It is hard to remember where you are, let alone who you are, when every street you turn down becomes a dead end leading you nowhere but back to where you came from, and that’s the road that lead you here, to this place called homeless.

It is the dichotomy of the place and state of homelessness. You have to lose everything you’ve got to get there yet, it takes everything you’ve got to get out of it.

For some, getting out of it is only achieved when their heart stops beating and breath no longer passes over their lips.

For some, the only road out is the road they so desperately tried to avoid with every breath they took to stay alive.

And then they are gone and there is no marker, no ceremony, no memorial to say, “I was here. I existed. I made a difference.”

A walk through the unmarked graves in Queen’s Park Cemetery in Calgary tells the story. The city provides land to bury those of no fixed address, but there is no money to mark the names on a headstone. When the grave is dug, a city worker places  cardboard tag affixed to a little metal stick with the deceased’s name scribbled on it with a black sharpie in the ground to mark the location of each burial plot.

If you’re lucky, the stick will still be standing up and the tag will still be affixed.

But mostly, the sticks have fallen over, the tags have gone blowin’ in the wind and all the flowers, if there were any, are gone.

It’s hard for those who want to remember to come and visit. Just as so often happened in life, they do not know where to find their loved ones in a field of unmarked graves.

This Monday, we will stand together and remember. Please come and stand with us. Come and remember and listen to each name called out, each candle lit.

And in our remembering, let us say together, “You are not forgotten.”