Image: Ashley Montabello (right) with her partner, Tommy Cloos.

‘The one who showed compassion’

Andrew Collis
Funeral for Ashley Anne-Maree Montabello
(February 27, 1990 – February 17, 2023)
Liverpool Cemetery Chapel
Luke 10:25-37

Ashley Anne-Maree Montabello was a kind person. Whenever we met – for lunch or coffee at Barn Doors Café on Redfern Street, with carers from St Vincent de Paul, at the Uniting Church in Raglan Street, in Phillip Street – she would greet me as a friend, with affection, humour, respect. And I will never forget it.

Ashley was a brave person. In April 2022 she was at Redfern railway station when a man fainted and fell from the platform. His head hit the tracks. A bystander recorded it. The Daily Mail reported it. How Ashley leapt from the platform, how she crossed herself and positioned herself between the fallen man and the approaching train – that she offered him whatever protection she could.

In the parable Jesus tells, the one who showed compassion was a Samaritan. In contrast to the Judean religious leaders – “respectable”, “important” – the Samaritan was quick to respond to a person beaten and fallen, to offer help and then ongoing care. The Samaritan, according to southern prejudices an outsider, suspect, improper … properly religious, that is, concerned for a neighbour in need.

We might say that Jesus was the one who showed compassion. As a teacher of wisdom, as a friend to the poor, an advocate for justice, a healer, partygoer, troublemaker … In many ways an outsider himself, Jesus enjoyed the company of outsiders. His gospel turned righteous entitlement inside-out – we are all related, he said, connected. The kingdom of God is a kin-dom – a kin-dom of heaven on earth.

Might we, too, show compassion? Might we learn to do so? In the Spirit of Jesus, with properly religious concern, in honour of Ashley. Compassion, understanding, advocacy. Opposing harmful stereotypes of drug users, people in pain. Overcoming ignorance, including our own, when it comes to addiction, when it comes to trauma. Seeking adequate health care, housing, support services. Speaking up, taking action – trying and trying again.

Ashley Anne-Maree Montabello was a good person. Amen.