Monday, October 1, 2012
A couple of years ago, I was sitting in a bar down in Mexico, imagine that, it was our usual Friday afternoon crowd and we were starting to get our loud on. I was already starting to try and "manage" my drinking, hell, I'd been trying to manage it since I started. Sitting smack dab in the middle of the empty Modelo cans and full ashtrays sat this man, Mike, quietly sipping his Diet Pepsi and laughing with good nature about the ribbing he was getting for providing some extra, um...chum on a recent fishing trip. I knew of this man, I'd never met him, but you know how we are when we are at that point in our drinking, so sick of ourselves, so desperate for any message of hope, constantly looking for someone to throw us a lifeline. Someone must have whispered in my ear once, "You know he's an alcoholic. Bad. Real big in AA." I know now that Mike would never have wanted someone whispering those things in my ear, he would have wanted them to holler those words loud enough for the whole bar to hear. He repeated those same words to me just a few minutes later, when I'd worked up enough courage and had enough bourbon in me to wiggle my way into a seat across from him. He told me about his drinking, how bad it was, he told me about going to the hospital with severe pancreatitis and telling the doctor there, "You know I drink" and she said, "I know" and he said, "I drink a lot." and she said, "I know." He told me about going to rehab and he told me about his life in AA.
He told me he'd been sober 18 years. He told me about how damn good his life is. The joy and the disbelief in his good fortune radiated in his quiet smile and in every word he spoke.
He told me about Hope.
Mike passed away about a week ago and I wrote his wife, Lynette. I'd already told her about mine and Mike's conversation in that bar and what it had meant to me, on my one year sober anniversary, Mike was in the hospital and I asked her to tell him, "Thank you." The day before yesterday, I wrote her and told her how I had always looked at her and Mike's marriage as one of those star-struck lucky ones. That she was blessed. This is the lovely and hope-filled message she wrote me back.
You are such a sweetheart for sending me this note. You have no idea how much it means to me.
Mike and I used to talk about that other kind of marriage, the same-space forced-proximity too-financially-tangled-up-to-escape kind. We were so, so lucky. No, I would never have wanted to miss out on 20 years of my sweetheart to escape the tough times in those two decades, or heartbreak in the end. I am glad that you have found that kind of love too. We are blessed, Kary.
This is something that I wrote for Mike's funeral. It was such a good service, lots of AA people there, and no preaching. The man who led the thing was one of Mike's oldest friends in AA and he shared personal stories about Mike's impact on others that were just lovely.
If you have to have a funeral, it was a great one.
"Mike and I went to a poker game together after a Friday night AA meeting, the night before our first real date. Close to midnight, he dealt the last hand of five card draw. I picked up my cards to find my first ever royal flush ~ in hearts. The odds of that are about one in a million. When I raked in the biggest pot of the night, Mike looked at me across the table with that beautiful smile, and said "alright, babe!" I took a big chunk of his money that night, and he laughed about it. Something about his happiness in my good fortune made me think at that moment that he was the one.
And he was. Mike and I were perfect together from the start. We had a one-in-a-million, royal flush kind of life together. He made me laugh every single day and his warmth and love were as constant as the sun and the waves of that green ocean he loved, even in the hardest times.One of the last things Mike said to a friend, just after he'd awakened in ICU, a week before he died, was this: "I am blessed." He was blessed and he knew it. And I was blessed to have 20 years with him. Though people tell me life goes on,
It's impossible to imagine a life without my sweetheart, without that smart, funny, happy, man to share the days with. I will miss him the rest of my life."One day at a time, Kary. I know there's a next life coming up and I can't imagine what it will hold. It will be different, I know that. And I wish he were here, but I know that he is now healthy and free of illness and ... well, I'd say peaceful and happy, but no matter how sick he became, he was always peaceful and happy. :-)
In the ICU, he saw something incredible over my left shoulder, something that lit up his face and stunned him. What was it? I don't know, but next he said "The door closed," and three days later he was out on the regular floor at the hospital when he said, very matter-of-factly, I'm going to die. He knew. He also saw what was coming for a moment, and it thrilled him. He spent the next day with this amazing smile on his face saying over and over again "wow!" He was just recovering his verbal ability at that point. I wish he could have told me more about what he saw, but things work out the way they're supposed to. He's in a good place and I am grateful for that
.and now I've just yakked your ear off!! Thank you again for writing. What a gift you gave me this morning. hugs, lynette
Mike, buddy, you're still sending me messages of Hope. Thank you. Kary