Well you know it's been a long time since I've blogged when my blog name isn't even in the list of links that pop up when I type it in. I had to type it allllll the way in! lol Anyway tonight I have something very important and close to my heart to share (I really tried to keep it short, but it got long anyway! lol).
I have a very special friend in AA named Fred. He was the first person who ever really spoke to me at a meeting. Some of you may know this story. I've told it before, though I'm not sure if i've told it here. Fred was the most unlikely first friend for me to have. He was quite a bit older than me, he'd had a stroke so his face drooped on one side, and he just looked a little rough around the edges. But he turned out to be so incredibly kind, and just who I needed when I was so alone.
I didn't want to talk to anyone that meeting. I'd been to a few before, but I always snuck in late, stayed back in the corner, and then left early to avoid having to actually have a conversation. But this one was a smaller meeting so I had to introduce myself and say I was brand new. I was sitting next to Fred, and he turned to me and said, "Ya know, you never have to be alone again." It was such an amazing thing to hear a person say. I wondered how he could possibly know how alone and lonely I was, but the idea of not having to feel that way was almost too much to handle. Ok it was too much to handle, I broke down sobbing and speechless.
I didn't talk much in meetings back then. But Fred again reached out to me and made sure I had his phone number. Then he got others in the meeting to give me their numbers as well. I kept coming to that meeting for months, though Fred became too sick to come just a couple of months after I met him. About 6 months into my sobriety I moved to a different area of town and mostly stopped going to that meeting. I still thought of the people there often though, as they'd been my first real connection to anyone. I often wondered about Fred, since I knew he was fighting cancer but I didn't know much more than that.
One night, I'd been talking to a friend of mine who lives in the area of that meeting. She said she was looking for a wednesday night meeting, which is when this one is. I said that one day she'd have to remind me and i'd take her there and introduce her. It went for weeks though, that neither of us had a day that worked. Then, a woman from my tuesday night meeting (that i've gone to almost every week since i first got sober) had some crazy housing issues go on and ended up moving into the housing complex right where the meeting is. Ironically it's a retirement complex. I had no idea of that at the time that I went to the meeting. I just went there that first time because it was close to where I lived. I think it was good for me though that it was my "grandparent" meeting, making it less threatening to be open than I may have felt in front of peers. Anyway, this woman from my tuesday group is friends with my friend, who told her about the meeting there. The two of them approached me one tuesday and asked if I would go with them the next day. This was about a month ago.
I told them I would, and the next day reluctantly stuck to my word and went. (It's not that I didn't want to go, I was just worn out from school and not very motivated). At the start of the meeting someone announced that the next day was Fred's 23rd sobriety birthday. He was too sick to make it to a meeting so a group was bringing a meeting to him. Afterwards I asked the woman making the announcement, also a friend of mine, if it would be ok for me to go. She and I decided to go together.
I didn't know what to expect, having not seen Fred in a long time but knowing he was very sick. He looked like he'd been through a lot, but he also looked good. He was happy, smiling, and joking with everyone. I was hesitant at first, but so excited to tell/show him that I had stuck with it and was really doing this thing. I got a chance to tell him just how much that moment with him had meant to me. This was not long after I had reached 10 months sober, so I even had my chip to show him. To my surprise, he had someone go to his room and got HIS 10 month chip. I'm amazed that a person that's been sober 23 years still has the chip he got 10 months in. But he did, and he gave it to me. What an amazing gift! Unfortunately there was some confusion at the time so I didn't acknowledge it properly, and wasn't able to until I called them (he and his wife) the next day. Since that day, however, that chip has not left my pocket. I usually don't carry my chips around, but I just so like having his there with me. Recently I've added my own 11 month chip into the pocket with his, but his is still by far the most valuable to me, and likely always will be.
Today I learned that Fred has passed away. We knew it was coming, as he'd been taken off all the chemo since nothing was helping. It's still just so, so hard to hear. I haven't seen him again since that day, but I am so so blessed that I got that day with him. It's really amazing when you look at it. It all started because one friend happened to move to near there, and another happened to have a housing crisis that forced her to move to somewhere she really didn't want to go (she was going from a nice house into a small apartment). Once that occurred, those women chose that particular night to ask me to go with them...the night when Fred's celebration was being announced. And I chose to go. To show up. My sponsor keeps telling me to just show up, because nothing can happen if you don't show up. I went, even though I felt lazy and wanted to hide out at home. I went the following day even though I was scared. And I got to have an amazing experience with Fred. I got his coin, which I will hold with me forever. I will never forget my introduction to AA and to people caring for each other that I got through him. And I am so so grateful that everything aligned for me to have that chance to see him again. I got a chance to make sure he knew he was important to me.
I don't know where I'm at now. I guess I'm sad, though I do believe he's at peace. I'm a little shocked, but it's not a giant surprise. I feel a little bad that I'm not at that meeting tonight, but I really do need my sleep and my presence there wouldn't change anything. I really just feel wow'ed. Wow'ed that I knew this man, this incredible kindness from the most unlikely source. And blessed that my higher power gave me one more chance to see him. He had a big role in my sobriety, and I'm so glad I was able to see him again as my new, sober self. The last time i'd seen him I was withdrawn and still pretty much miserable. Today I'm overall happy and smiling, and my head just feels so so so much clearer. The friend that I went with was joking about how when I came there at first I was about the lonliest person on the planet, with no friends. But that night I'd come I brought 3 friends with me (we'd had another tagalong ;) ) which had nearly doubled the size of the meeting. I was kinda the popular one! lol Anyway, is it wrong to feel blessed at a time like this? I just feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet him. I don't know where i'd be now without that awkward first encounter with him. And I'm so glad I don't have to find out.
He was an amazing man, and he will be missed by many. Throughout his birthday meeting he talked about how blessed he was and how happy he was. It was truly a sight to behold. He still was able to talk about the principles of the program, and living each day for all that you can and leaving tomorrow's worry for tomorrow. Though really I knew very little of him, just seeing him once a week for a couple of months, I feel like I knew his spirit and I feel like we had a connection. There's just no way to put it all into words. So I'll just remain grateful to Fred for all he did for me, and to god for giving me that chance to connect. It felt so good to know that the connection seemed to be mutual too. I'm praying for his wife, and for those who knew him best, as this must be such an impossibly hard time for them. If you wouldn't mind, please join me in that.
Thank you for reading. And thank you Fred for being you, and for giving me the chance to know you.