Friends Remembering Friends

Every year, the seasons of Advent, dark winter, World AIDS Day, and Christmas are launched for myself and my colleagues ( in a small room in a community centre in Rialto, a village in Dublin that sits on one of the epicentres of drug devastation in this city. The event is a memorial to people from the community who have died, many of them, most of them, through drugs. It is both reflective and celebratory, with a baby at the front to remind us that life does go on, and that as we approach Advent there is an immense power and hope in the vulnerability of a small baby. The quilt group unveils their latest memorial or story-telling quilt and we always sing Lean on Me at the close, but what has the most impact, every year, is the reading of the names. We read pages, and then pause for a poem or a song, then go back to reading more pages. Although these are lists, they aren’t just words: they are memories and faces and people, some of whom have been there in that room with us reading out names.


Friends Remembering


In this room I reckon the names of the dead

outnumber the living

We read the lists, line after line a litany, a liturgy

a hymn for the lost, a flickering candle of memory

scraps of small moments in time like the sudden bright fabric of the quilts

Sometimes a breath, a pause

a catch in the throat

a blank space left for the next one

The pages in our hands tremble, uncertain as heartbeats

Life beyond this room suspended for us, like a breath sucked in and held

Outside in the brick-lined streets it goes on, with or without us

Yet greater than the calling out of names and rustling of paper,

louder than the rattling breaths of the dying or the keening of the still living

is the sound of comfort, a note of a song

There is still breath in us to make words

though the stillness is deafening

here, in this room.


One thought on “Friends Remembering Friends

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s