“There will be a memorial for Mark at the American Legion Hall . . .” someone announced. I had recently returned North and started attending local meetings again. I had only known one Mark here, Jimmy’s sponsor, and as we read and discussed the 10th Step over the course of the next hour at Blue Mountain, I wondered if it was he. When the meeting was over, I approached the chairperson and asked. Yes, it was that Mark. He had died of a brain tumor. Fifty-five years old. Thirty years sober. Gone. Just like that. I was stunned.
A few weeks earlier, while I was still down South, Larry had come over to my house to deliver a service contract for the building’s management company. We talked about his wife, who was hospitalized with a serious illness. He asked about my health and I said I was well. Hey, that’s what’s important, he said. Two weeks later, he was dead. A heart attack. He was about my age.
So was Tony, an old friend from my days as a young rebel in New York. She too had moved down South, and when she came up to the city during the summer, we would all get together at a restaurant and hold a reunion in her honor. The last time she came I couldn’t make it. I felt bad, but I thought, Well, there will always be another summer. There wasn’t. Tony died a few days before Christmas.
And with the last snows of March there was Margaret, whom I had met the fall of ’96. I had never gone back to Iowa to see her again, much as I wanted to. She’s not there anymore. Pancreatic cancer.
Just days ago, a relative told me she wouldn’t be able to come up to visit on this particular trip to the area. Next year for sure. For sure? I thought of Mark, Larry, Tony, Margaret.
We take life so much for granted. We think there will always be another summer, another year, another opportunity. So we keep putting off those amends we’ve been meaning to make; or forgiving that person who hurt us; or making peace with our father or mother, our son or daughter, our brother or sister; or making that trip, paying that visit, or seeing that friend. And then they're gone. Or we're gone. For we don’t know their time, or ours.
[Posted 05/07/13. Image: Bill W.’s Obituary in the New York Times, January 26, 1971, which presents a mini-history of AA worth reading. In the darkest days of my emotional relapse in the 1990's, this alcoholic attended meetings at the Miami Heart Institute in Miami Beach, where Bill died.]