"What, honey?" Deborah Edie would ask when she hadnt
heard what youd said. Everyone was "honey" to her, which
is one of many reasons her death, just four months after she finally
moved into permanent housing at the Wintonia, shook the community to
After years of wrestling with her addictions and the streets, Deborah
had laid some of those demons to rest; had found a resting place. She
was nesting. "Ive moved up from the Dollar Store to Walmart,"
she said, as she began buying accoutrements for her new-found place.
Days later, she died in a taxicab on the way up to Harborview Medical
Center. The cause of her death is unknown. Two memorials were held
at the Wintonia and at Church of Mary Magdalene to honor and
say goodbye to Deborah.
"We got clean together," said Linda, at the Wintonia service.
"She was so proud of herself. We were all proud." Perhaps
the greatest poignancy was that Deborahs death occured just as
she made that proud journey out of the prison of her addiction.
"She was the cutest person on the planet," said Mary Lou,
a Wintonia staffperson, whod quickly grown to love Deborah and
the different, declarative T-shirts shed wear every day. A short,
slight woman with a raspy voice, Deborah had a core of pure sweetness,
but she could effect a tough exterior when she needed to. When she heard
Mary Lou was being hassled by someone, Deborah told the hassler, "Dont
you be messing with my friend, or Ill kick your ass!" "If
she had your back, she had your back," explained one of Deborahs
Deborah lived for her two grandkids, and couldnt wait to get down
to Centralia to see them. Her daughter, Robin, broke down in tears several
times during the Wintonia memorial, and thanked the 35-40 people whod
gathered to remember her mom. "As mother and daughter," she
said, "we had a knack for laughter. She always had a smile on her
face" no matter what. Robin began to cry, again, and stopped. A
man in the crowd stood and said, very strong, "You need to know
she always said how much she loved you and was proud of you!"
"Dont worry, were a Christian group!"
"None of us had a chance to say goodbye," began Reverend
Pat Simpson at the Church of Mary Magdalene memorial. For an hour, women
lit candles and prayed and shared their memories of their friend whom
theyd loved. The smoke of an outdoor barbecue, where burgers and
hotdogs were being cooked for a memorial feast, wafted in and blessed
"She was my campadre," said Colette Fleming. Arnette Adams
said, "When I came to services here, Debbie was a light. She hugged
me and I felt loved. I thank God for giving me a chance to know her,
because she was a sister to me." A formerly homeless woman named
Marilyn said, "Just knowing her was a gift. She was such a generous
person, she was always giving, giving."
Marilyn continued: "She was a shining jewel, even in her struggles.
I met her in 1992. In the past few years I let her into my heart, where
she will always be." As she made her way into being clean and sober,
"it was like she dropped some things behind her and started to
Marty Hartman and Vicki Gruger of the Lakeview Free Methodist Shelter
got up and told the story of one of Lakeviews now-infamous Christmas
field trips to Candy Cane Lane. As the Lakeview Shelter van slowed and
then stopped in the surreal, snowless terrain of Christmas lights, Santa
statues, candy canes, and toy trains, passersby in the Lane stared into
the open van door at the 10 homeless women oohing and aahing at the
wonder. "Dont worry," Deborah shouted, "Were
a Christian group!"
(I believe this is the same Lakeview Shelter field trip where we stopped
at Dicks hamburger stand before Candy Cane Lane for burgers and
shakes. While we waited for our order to be filled, sitting in the van
with the radio blaring, the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction"
came on. One by one, homeless women in the van joined in the refrain,
"But I try, and I try, and I try
I cant GET no
I fell out of the van laughing.)
After Deborahs unexpected death, Mary Lou of the Wintonia heard
her voice late one night before she fell asleep: "Dont worry
about me, honey, Im in a better place and my legs dont hurt
"She was so magnetic; she just touched all of our lives and were
all going to miss her," said a friend at the Wintonia service.
Deborah will be missed beyond all measure. Her kind of immediate offering
of love what, honey? is hard to come by. Of the unconditional
love we learned from her, another friend said, "Its like
something in your hand, like a robins egg, that you just want
to keep and hold in a special place."
— Memorial by Michele Marchand