Dec 17, 2010

Meredith Simmons Nov 25 1983 - Dec 12 2010

Twenty grieving street youth stood and sat in a circle around the tree on a cold and dreary day at 4pm. As we began our memorial service, more came. Each arrival was greeted with hugs and comfort. This community of street-dependent young people had assembled to say a farewell to a dear friend. Some had known her for 9 years. Some only one year. Some only a month. A few didn't know here at all but came to support fellow brothers and sisters of the street community in their loss. But all were touched by the beautiful person of Meredith Kay Lynch Simmons.

We began with a prayer asking for peace and healing and that any untrue words spoken would be quickly forgotten. Then we listened to a song selected by some of Meredith's friends: "Missed Me" by The Dresden Dolls. It's a playful song that captures a bit of the humor and charm that Meredith shared everywhere she went. And yet it's a bit of a dark song, too. Just like Mere.

Immediately afterward, I read Psalm 150 to begin a period of sharing the celebrations of Meredith:
  • She helped me out nine years ago when I didn't even know I needed help.
  • She always shared her smile with me.
  • Her humor was so wonderful. She always made me laugh.
  • I loved the way she pulled together an outfit. I mean really. It wouldn't work for most people but she made it work.
  • I heard her read the gospel at my church. Her voice was so beautiful. She touched so many people just that one day.
Then we listed to Amanda Palmer sing Hallelujah. This is an artist that Meredith liked and reminded her friends of her own voice. I then read Romans 12:15 and announced, "Meredith is no longer with us in the same way as last week. Please share how you grieve and mourn for this terrible tragedy. You are among friends and we are listening to one another."



I miss the sound of her "clomp clomp clomp" and coming up behind me.
  • Who will eat my French toast?
  • I will miss her tattoos.
  • I will miss her smile.
  • I will mer her beautiful eyes.
  • I will miss my good friend.
  • I will miss someone who I could open up with and tell anything.
  • I will miss a great artist.
Then we listened to a poignant song, "Woke Up New" by The Mountain Goats that challenged us to start thinking about the future. I read 1 Corinthians 13:12-13. I looked around the group of 30 or so people sitting in the circle, all cold but none moving to leave. I asked, "When we leave this circle later, each of will take something of Meredith with us. What will you take? "
  • I will take so many good memories.
  • I will take her wonderful sense of humor.
  • I will take her infectious laugh.
  • I will take sobriety. She gives me a reason to fight every day for my sobriety.
  • I will take nothing for granted... not one, no day, not one moment. Each are precious.
We closed in prayer, commending Meredith's soul to God and advising God that he will want to spend some time with Meredith! She'll be really good for him to talk to. :)

Afterwards, the friends gathered around a fellowship meal of donated barbeque and sandwiches. As it was 40 degrees, I also passed out a few sleeping bags, blankets, coats, shoes, socks, and other items that had been donated to help the street-dependent youth of Austin get by. Even a local police officer stopped by to offer condolences.

We have gathered too many times under that tree this year. Upon hearing of Meredith's death, one youth asked me in an angry voice, "How many of us have to die?" "Indeed, how many," I repeated silently. I know that street youth make decisions that contribute to their troubles every day. But I beg you, the reader, to understand that society does things every day that keeps the youth on the street, that makes it too hard to get help, too hard to be productive, and too hard to change. (E.g., difficulty to get IDs, no openings or fundings or difficult red tape to get into treatment when they want it, laws that make felonies easy and rules that block felons from help, read tape and difficulty to get mental health treatment.) 

In the memorial service, one young girl, who struggles with sobriety every day, said, "We need to promise each other that we will get sober. We will no longer kill ourselves with drugs. We will be here for each other. We will not meet here again for a long while." I prayed that these words would go from her lips to God's ears.
Meredith had shared with me that it was her dream to become a licensed drug counselor. According to many at the memorial, Meredith had helped several there to be sober in the past years. I prayed that her death, senseless as it was, would be something that helped many get and stay sober for a long while.

-- Terry
"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
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