A man who's been very kind to me since I met him around a year ago died last Wednesday night, not quite a year after his bile duct cancer diagnosis. At the time of diagnosis he was told he could expect to live only three or four more months. We were fortunate to have him with us for several months longer.
Despite what the doctors told him, he got out of bed and got dressed every day. Each day he attended a meeting. Three of those meetings each week were at our "home group." The other meetings he attended were across town with the group from which our home group split many years ago. He continued to attend meetings even after hospice care had started. Toward the end, meetings were the only item on his must-do list. When he felt up to it, he and his wife also received visitors in their home.
The last time I saw him, on May 3, his beautiful Native American complexion had turned startlingly yellow. During that meeting he grew very sleepy and dozed off, but he came around when it was his turn to share. He shared his gratitude for another day alive, his gratitude for the program, his gratitude for all of the people in the room.
He attended his last meeting, across town, on May 4.
On May 8, at our home group, his chair was empty.
On May 8 the title of the selection from AA's Daily Reflections was "A Resting Place."
This is the man who assured me just over a year ago, after I'd explained why I was certain I am an alcoholic even if nobody else in the room believed me, that nobody would ever kick me out.
On the days when I wasn't so sure that I am an alcoholic, this man was often the only reason I attended a meeting. Sometimes I just thought it would be nice to see him. Other times, I went because I played the tape through. He is the first person I ever heard say, "Play the tape through."
This is my tape:
I've never been pulled over, arrested, hospitalized, or incarcerated and I have not lost everything; my bills are all paid. If I stop at the store after this meeting and pick up a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, I won't pop the cork until between four and five o'clock when the knife, the cutting board, and the vegetables come out.
When it's time to slice and dice, I will pour myself a glass of wine.
I will have another glass of wine with dinner, not because I want to, but because I drank the first glass.
By the time I go to bed at ten o'clock, the bottle will be empty.
Within mere weeks I will do this more days than I do not.
Very likely, by the end of the month, if while I'm slicing and dicing my husband pours himself a glass of wine from my bottle, I will resent him for it. I will resent him because it's my wine and I want all of it. I won't be able to sleep without all of it.
I may be a boring housewife.
I am an alcoholic.
This man had had a very busy, very productive life outside of meetings. The front page article about him in Friday's paper was nothing short of astonishing. For example, because of his race his teachers told him he would never finish high school. He received his masters degree then figured a way to use his education to help his People help themselves.
On April 24, I celebrated one year of sobriety at my home group meeting. On my way out of that meeting, I received a warm hug from a man who on February 14 1982 admitted he was powerless over alcohol, that his life had become unmanageable.
I am grateful to him, grateful for him.
I am going to miss him.