It was Saturday morning and I was very heavy with bad news from the street. I had received notice that one of our clients passed away the Thursday before. A 25 year old girl tragically died for medical reasons while in custody of the police in jail.
I found myself suddenly involved in a visit that the family arranged for this day in Austin. They are Russian immigrants who now live in Connecticut. They came to view the body of their daughter and to say goodbye, but they also wanted to meet some of her daughter’s friends. I have learned over the years that grieving parents do not always mix well with grieving street friends. So this made me pretty anxious and I tried just about everything to avoid it. But by Saturday afternoon, I found myself with two of the street youth and the family at a funeral home. It was difficult but very amazing to see how the street youth and family responded well to one another.
And then the family wanted to attend a Greek Orthodox vespers service together with about a dozen of their daughter’s friends. So we moved from the funeral home to the 11th street church where a group of about 10 more street youth were waiting. They waited one block away and seemed reluctant to come nearer. But we brought them near and into the church. Many of the clients looked so uncomfortable but they endured for the sake of their friend’s parents.
They lit candles for their loved one at the door. Some made it to pews in this very traditional Byzantine church although many came in only so far as to sit in the very back row of chairs.
After the service, the parents wanted to eat together with the street youth. Pizza at a local place on the Drag, easy for all to access, was selected. It was an odd dinner. Three Russian people sitting with a dozen young people from the street sharing pizza. Each talking in their native languages (street and Russian) and as best they could having a dialog another about their daughter or friend’s life. I haven’t often seen such wonderful acts of compassion as these strangers grieving together and eating together.
The parents sat and asked, “Tell me about my daughter” and the street youth told them how much everyone loved their friend. It was a foretaste of heaven for sure for me. And to think I wanted to somehow avoid this difficult situation!
Please pray for the family who held a hometown memorial recently and are walking the mourners’ path for their only child.
Pray for the girl’s street family and that they will grieve appropriately and well.
Pray for healing in the street youth community. There is a lot of anger over this death. We held a street memorial recently to allow everyone in the street youth community to grieve and stand together in this tragedy. We did the service outside under a tree, with music, food, flowers, and eulogies. It was heartbreaking and difficult but extremely special.
Pray for change in our justice system. Already the city and country are working to find better ways to deal with alcoholics in jail. Pray a good solutions come soon. Already some courts and agencies are hiring social workers to deal with and prevent the most frequently offenders rather than continue racking up high costs and ineffective outcomes. And of course, pray that our clients become ready for change and don’t get involved in these systems at all.
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