By Meghan Sheffield
In the first days of July, there aren’t many flowers blooming, I learned.
I’d sent a text saying “Hello friends, I’m putting out a call for flowers. I went to public school with Kory, the young man who died in downtown Cobourg this week, and though I hadn’t seen him in recent years, I feel the loss of him on a community level, as I imagine you do, too. Some of Kory’s people are gathering tonight in vigil at the bank where he died, and I’m gathering flowers from those of us who have gardens to share with this grieving community. Do you have some blooms in your garden that you’d be willing to share?”
Kory died as a result of a toxic drug poisoning that took his life in the bank vestibule where he was sheltering. His friends were grieving, angry, disbelieving. The wider community was in shock that this could happen here, in such an ordinary place, to a local boy, born and raised.
Those who knew him best, who had been with him in what became his last days and months, began to talk about holding a vigil, a time and place to be together in their grief.
As it turned out, the tulips and peonies had faded and finished, and the dahlias and zinnias hadn’t begun to flourish yet. I got some nervous replies about the current state of the garden. A mom from my daughter’s class texted to say that they were sorry, but just didn’t really have much to offer right now.
Then the first yes rolled in. “Yes, I will pull something together. We have one million daisies.”
A man’s whole life. One million daisies.
As it turned out, there was an abundance to be had, if you knew where to look, if we just widened the margins of “the garden” and looked to the edges of the wild places.
We know that trauma of all kinds is inequitably distributed in our society, and that access to healing resources is even more inequitable. For community members who rely on a prohibited, criminalized supply of certain substances, the experience is not just a risk of personal harm, but of compounding losses and grief. It means mourning in isolation because the cause of death is so stigmatized. It means administering life-saving medicine and performing chest compressions in the glow of flashing lights, while still in mourning for the most recent loss.
I spent an hour driving around, picking up mason jars filled with blooms from doorsteps all over town. There were daylilies and hydrangea, wild vetch and bladderwort, fragrant bee balm and holy basil, and yes, one million daisies.
At the vigil, the jars of flowers were joined by an eagle feather and abalone shell, offerings of cigarettes, and a can of Molson resting on the window sill outside the bank. Candles were lit, stories were told, tears were shed.
Those of us who didn’t know Kory well, who were present to show our support, to acknowledge the community and systemic level failures that had led us to this place, were invited to hold a perimeter of care for those in the centre, who were grieving, by standing at the edges of the gathering.
For days after the sunset vigil, at the doorstep of an ordinary bank, flowers bloomed on the grey cement sidewalk on main street. Wild, fleeting, beauty.