Someone from my local AA has died, and I just want to quickly record here my most striking memory of her. I didn’t know her well, and I’ve been in a meeting with her probably less than ten times total. Her husband attends my home group very often, and she came once or twice. They sort of took turns going to meetings since they have teenagers who need supervision. They ran a daytime meeting that I attended a few times when I wasn’t working for some reason. Their meeting was very small, probably less than ten people were there each time I went.
The reason I was at their meeting was because I was chasing down oldtimers, trying to attend some day meetings where people with lengthy sobriety and so, lengthy lives, were. This often works but there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of sobriety at their meeting. But I went anyway.
I’m going to call this woman Olivia. Not to glamorize or idealize her, these are the things I remember:
- She and her husband seemed to have a happy, AA marriage.
- Physically, she never seemed well.
- She had a tough, hard, tough and hard story which involved lots of danger and big odds to overcome.
But those weren’t the first things I thought of when I thought of her. I remember one time in particular that I attended her daytime meeting. There was a woman there who was obviously mentally ill and possibly intellectually disabled as well. The woman tried, many times and inappropriately, to talk to Olivia about some book or something she wanted to read or borrow. There was also an obvious difficulty with a walk the woman had to do to get home to the book . . . something like that. Olivia was very patient with her and after the meeting was over, I don’t remember the details but I know that Olivia was taking care of the woman, her ride, and her book.
She was then a breathtaking example of the best in human nature and in the program, for me, then and now. I remembered this situation many times through the months since it happened, before she got sick and before I knew she might not make it.
I work all day with people who have mental retardation, mental illnesses and lots of other challenges, and I’m glad to offer up my personal supply of patience to some people who need it. I’m not that good at it outside of work though. I will admit that sometimes I feel tired just thinking about extending that patience, and for me, especially, the outgoingness required to extend it in the rooms of AA.
And also very very importantly, Olivia died sober. Her story is very sad in that she was way too young but it is not tragic in the way so many turn out. She died sober.