Today, Cook County observed the annual Interfaith Memorial Observance for Indigent Person. In the past year, 138 people, overwhelmingly male, were buried by Cook County Medical Examiner.
This service was an effort to lend dignity to their passing and to celebrate the lives of people who may have been loved by others, may have experienced love, but who died alone.
Appropriately, the Interfaith service was held in the heart of the city, at the beautiful Chicago Temple, opposite the City of Chicago offices at Daley Plaza.
I had the honor of chanting Psalm 23 and the traditional El Maleh prayer for any Jews who might have been among the deceased homeless people. I felt I was praying for them all.
A Muslim women offered a beautiful prayer celebrating the divine spark in all humans. There were Christian and even Zoroastrian prayers too.
All the names of the deceased were read at the service.
On September 23, 2010, three people were buried who had no identification. They are listed in the record as "unknown." When the man (of the Isma'ili Shia faith) who read the names of those who died that day came to the "unknowns" he said, instead "known to God alone."
I met wonderful people who work with the homeless and who talked about the challenges of getting people to accept help. It is sad that these men and women could not be helped while they were still alive.