the big meeting in the sky just got another newcomer.

harry will be now making the coffee and greet all who enter.

i was 20 years old, and moving back home from college.  i had 2 months of sobriety, and honestly, i’m not sure my parents knew what to do with me.  my dad said that he knew a man.  harry m., who worked with him.  that he was sober.  and that he could take me to meetings.

he, 54…and me…20 years old.  we were quite a pair.  cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth.  an infectious smile and laugh.  everywhere we went he introduced me to the women.  he showed me the program in the south, and i understood from him that it was my job to just keep going.  we never talked about my inventory; he never was disrespectful.  he showed up, brought me to you, left me alone and drove me home after coffee.  he explained what our big book said, that we are engaged upon a life-and-death errand, every single day.  that we are to be there for the newcomer, that it will ensure our sobriety more than anything else.

this weekend, at the pow wow in palm springs, he suddenly crossed my mind.  briefly.  and i wondered what that was about, since i hadn’t thought of him in 30 years.  this morning, i got an email that was forwarded by my dad to me.  that harry had gone to the big meeting in the sky.  that harry lived a full and joyous life for 87 years.  he was the epitome of living a happy and useful life as a result of staying sober in our beautiful program.

it’s weird.  i know about alcoholic deaths.  they are gruesome.  the girl who drank herself out in the field and froze to death.  the countless people who’ve had unremarkable deaths.  they got drunk, and they simply died.  the ones who ended up in being murdered, after thinking they again could drink in safety.  these are the funerals with the most weeping.  once i gave a eulogy of a girl who i had sponsored.  she decided that she could dance with the devil too.  the last time i saw her, we were doing her fifth step; the next time she was in a casket.

these deaths.  they break our hearts, and we all rush out to meetings to ensure one. more. day.

but the people who die after living a long beautiful life.  they are my inspiration.  i spent the weekend with some great friends.  one who was 40 years sober, and in the meeting i felt ray.  our ray.  ray h, who she and i loved more than words could say.  his cigarette, his flip flops.  the first time i went to an aa potluck at his house.  and i turned to her with a shiver and said, carol.  ray is here.  between us.

this got me thinking…of all of them.  and i thought of ken r., who helped me build the fresno fellowship tables…or maybe i helped him, who loved me as a daughter.   of gwen and dee.  and jini mac.  these people who lived a life of quiet dignity.  and taught me everything i know about how to stay sober.  of sitting at annette’s table writing letters to new york.

i like to think that the reason i felt ray in the meeting on friday, was that he was getting harry’s chair ready for him.  i am still that little girl, with the fairy tale ending, and in my mind, i envision laughter and back slapping and welcoming.

i was blessed to know him.  he will keep the chairs full, and the coffee brewing.  everyone will have a big book, and he will reach his hand out to all who follow him there.

welcome, harry…you are in good company, and thank you for everything.

love, linda

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