Avalon Memorial Gathering

By: Avalon Housing

On Friday, February 14, Avalon staff gathered for our annual memorial gathering for Avalon clients and tenants who we’ve lost. Joel Barson led this memorial, and these are his remarks:

So, this is the second year that we’re gathering like this to do an intentional remembrance, but this really began three years ago, after a season of heavy loss, which drew us to gather and to share our grief.

The third year of something makes it a bona fide tradition. It’s feeling like this is something we’ll always do. As we should. It’s been said, about staff and clients alike, that no one ever fully leaves Avalon. This tree is a symbol of that.

The thing about traditions is that they take on a form, a shape, which can be reassuringly returned to again and again, deepening the experience over time. So that’s our experiment for today.  Some brief readings and the sounding of a bell. This might seem like it has a sort of sacred flavor to it, and it kinda does. But what we all know deep down is that at Avalon, the truly sublime moment happens in the car, on the way to inpatient treatment; or in an apartment, when harm reduction supplies are given; or at a lease signing, when a fearfully dreamt of hope becomes a set of keys in quivering hands.

Our sacred ground is the Miller Manor lobby, the Ashley House living room, the Carrot Way Community Center, and others. And the food pantries are our communion.

Sometimes I think the tenderness that we witness, from our colleagues, from our tenants, is too much to bear: the change-talk of a pre-contemplative client; the inexplicable kindness of a coworker who helps at just the right moment, with nothing expected in return. When we stop to absorb these experiences, they can overwhelm us. But taking time to feel them is critical to being fully human.

So we set aside times like these to notice the excruciating loveliness of sharing this part of our lives with one another, with the memories of friends on this tree, and with everyone not here, but included just the same.

Because more essential than a bell is the ear that listens without judgment. And more vital than words, are the trembling voices that speak them.

And more sacred than both, is the silence that contains them all.

~ Joel Barson