“I’m not dead yet!” she’d remind us, sometimes rather forcefully….
And then she was gone, way too soon, leaving us with holes in our hearts and a huge hole in the heart of the homelessness “system.” In a packed church service that honored Dr. June Mann Averyt’s life and phenomenal work in ending homelessness for so many people there were almost as many chuckles as there were tears. Most of us had our favorite “June” stories that always brought a chuckle (and more than a few of us had felt our “grumpy Mother Teresa’s” wrath if we didn’t agree with her on an issue or if we got in her way.) But that’s not why there weren’t as many tears. Some of us had already shed a lot of tears during the months in which she fought—and ultimately lost—her battle with cancer. But even then the tears weren’t always for her. Our admiration for the courage and grace she showed didn’t leave quite as much time for us to contemplate what we knew was coming.
Our tears were often for the people she worried about and offered daily prayers for on her Facebook page. One-line prayers that said as much about June as the people she prayed for. Prayers for people who lacked warm beds. Prayers for people whose fingers and toes hurt. Prayers for people who were dying without support. And, every day, snippets of gratitude for ordinary things that we take for granted–hot water for a bath, food we like, friends and family.
Then she was gone, at 62, leaving a huge hole in our hearts, our homelessness “system,” and in our city. But her spirit, the spirit of the homelessness system, and the Outreach, Housing and Community program that she founded are alive and well and will go on.
Rest in peace, June. Your spirit isn’t dead yet!