Sunday, September 11, 2011

Grace and Grief By the Sea

I spent yesterday afternoon and evening with a wonderful group of "my people." I had only ever met a small handful of the more than one hundred recovering individuals who gathered on the ocean's edge, but as is often the case with recovering people, I felt like I knew most of them quite well, nonetheless. I would love to get to know some of them much better.

One of the sweetest parts of the day found a group of women sitting around in a circle on the rocks. As we relaxed and caught some rays, we shared our hearts. There's something very special about recovery meetings that take place outside, it seems to me. Perhaps being in nature, we are able to be more natural. There were more than two topics chosen for the meeting, but as I sit here, I can only remember two. Gratitude, and grief. 

Gratitude because...well because we are in recovery and it is a topic that comes ever easily to us. If you know where we have been, you won't question why we are so happy to be where we are now. And I don't just mean "where" in the sense that yes, we live in the most beautiful part of the world.  If you could see the gorgeous little children running around, splashing in the water and playing their hearts out, you would understand the gratitude of the mothers in recovery who live their lives in relief that finally, finally they are able to be present for their kids. Or, maybe they haven't got their kids with them, but they are beginning to believe what the rest of us know, that if they stay in recovery, everything they want back will come back, when the time is right.  

Grief very nearly trumped gratitude in that women's meeting and, I suspect it may also have dominated the men's meeting taking place several hundred yards away. Grief, because this particular group of recovering people lost someone very dear to them, only a few short weeks ago. I never met the woman who died very tragically, very suddenly, and very clean (drug free) but today, I know some important things about her. I know that she was dearly, dearly loved. It sounds to me like she was a fun-loving girl, maybe even someone who would have been described as "having balls." I know that she was of service to others, that she was the chairperson for this year's camp out. I know that the people who loved her, loved her so much that they put aside their grief for long enough to organize all they had to do in order to pull off the annual camp out, an event in its seventeenth year.  I suspect that the love for their friend propelled the organizers through the shopping, preparing, setting up. Preparing the food alone must have taken herculean effort, and I suspect that more than a few tears flowed as the salads and desserts were being prepared, the corn being shucked.  

Later in the evening, after the phenomenal feast that also included First Nations' style fire-pit roasted sockeye salmon and fresh-baked blackberry pies, another meeting took place. A speaker meeting. Ironically, the speaker, who was the recently departed woman's sponsor, just happened to have been one of my very own early sponsors. She sponsored me decades ago, in another time and another place, but the bond endures. I know a lot about some of the pain and the grief that this woman has experienced over the past twenty years. I know of her successes (there have been many) and I know about her greatest joys - her son, grandsons and a myriad of friendships that she holds close to her heart. She's lost a lot of friends in recovery. We have all lost too many. 

This woman, my friend, is a warm, funny, courageous, loving, dedicated woman.  More than her grief, her gratitude spoke as she shared at last night's meeting. So too did her hope. Healing is already happening for this miraculous group of people who gathered by the sea this weekend. I heard it in the meetings, in the incredible music performed around the fire in late afternoon. I saw it, on the faces of the women who openly cried for a while, and laughed with just as much effort, at other moments. 

Healing will take time, a lot of time. The grief will come and go in waves. It just does that. What was clear, was that this lovely, inspiring gathering was a tribute to somebody who had died too soon, somebody who shortly after her death would have celebrated five years clean. They celebrated her recovery anniversary anyway, I hear, complete with an infinity medallion. This group of friends will remember her and celebrate her always. I know it, with all of my heart.

Take care, friends. Until next year.

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