Friday, September 28, 2012
Mama's Friends of Bill
Mama's visitation was most entertaining. Because we have such a nice (new) funeral home, the family could spread out and greet visitors without getting stuck in a formal receiving line. I navigated as best I could through the folks who had come to pay their respects, trying to make sure I spoke to them all. Most of them I knew, and those I did not know could read my, "I appreciate your coming, but I haven't a clue who you are," look and would introduce themselves.
The callers fell into several groups, and some of those groups over-lapped. There was family - those we knew and those who introduced themselves as "Cousins". There were the members of her various bridge clubs and lots of people from her church. (She was an active church member.) And, of course our garden club was represented. There were former neighbors, current neighbors, and people she had traveled with. She gave up her dream trip to China two years ago after she swore she spent a month recovering from a two week trip along the coast and into Alaska.
As I was talking to a former neighbor a couple caught my eye as they came in. They were not dressed in a coat and tie or skirt like most people. They both had on tee shirts and jeans. I watched them make their way around the edge of the crowd, not speaking to anyone, move down the main room and disappear into parlor where Mama was lying in repose. I just continued my conversation.
As I moved on toward a cousin I had not seen in a while, two women walked in the door. I did not recognize them and they also looked a little out of place. They walked straight up to me and introduced themselves by their first names. Then it dawned on me - these were Mama's friends from AA. Like, everyone else in the room, they too wanted to pay their respects.
I stood there for what must have been ten minutes as these two women talked about much my mother had helped them. One of them told of the many times my mother had to come to get her in the middle of the night when she was drunk and had no where else to go. They both made it clear that they and many others found strength in her sobriety and she had changed their lives. I asked about the young couple I had seen earlier. "That must be Jill. Your mother was her sponsor and she was finally starting to see the light. She has been struggling, but your mother took her under her wing when no one else would." After some more conversation, I thanked them so much for coming and for their kind words.
During the visitation, there were several more of her friends from AA who came in to pay their respects. And, there may have been more who blended in with the crowd - those we could not discern. But, we tried to speak to those we could and thank them for coming and if they wanted to talk, we listened. After all, that is what Mama would have done.
As a post script:
My mother had a horrible drinking problem for years. Looking back this brought about many humorous situations that I can laugh about now. However, growing up with it was painful. 17 years ago, she got herself straight and, as far as I know remained that way until she died. She never hid her alcoholism from anyone. Once, she faced it, she was honest about it to others and herself. We all knew she was active in AA (perhaps not as active as she was.) She once told me that after sobering up, she was thankful for every day she had, because she knew the odds were against her years ago that would ever see that day.