I am a free-lance singer and writer trying to practice "saying what I mean, meaning what I say, and not saying it mean." My goal on this blog is to provoke conversations in which we can be real in sharing with one another -- free to express our points of view, even when we differ. Just today, I posted MY CYBER LINKS under that label (see adjacent list). I am available, and I love it when we get to encourage one another!
Thursday, July 21, 2011
JOAN'S STORY: FINAL INSTALLMENT AND SAD NEWS
When her mother was dying, Joan could not afford the cost of transportation to Staten Island. “Who can’t afford $25?” was her sister Audrey’s comment. Joan finally saved enough money to get there, but her sister was nasty. Joan’s niece apologized on her mother’s behalf, but Joan just said, “She’s been working hard.”
Joan did not realize until many years later that her mother had been an active alcoholic. “Due to my mother’s alcoholism, she was not charitable to me. Consequently, my family did not talk to me, and it was at least twenty-five years before I heard from anyone.”When her mother passed in 1989, Joan could not attend the funeral. She was in the hospital having a breast removed. A year or so later, Joan’s sister called just to say hello. Joan says, “We had many conversations, which was amazing, given all those years of misunderstanding between us.”
By 1997, Joan’s son, Rick, had joined the Navy, so Joan was living all alone in the house on Long Island. Rick’s first and last station was in Connecticut, and he didn’t want to move back to Long Island, so Joan decided to re-locate to the Connecticut shoreline. She didn’t know a solitary soul in the area; she couldn’t drive due to her epilepsy; and there weren’t any buses on the shoreline at the time to get people around by public transportation. It was her son Rick who was quick to suggest, “All you need is one meeting, and you’ll be all set.”So he drove Joan to a Westbrook meeting, where she asked if anyone lived in Deep River. Four hands went up. From then on, she was able to get rides to and from her meetings. Later, Joan recalls, “I received a pep talk from a gal in program about driving. I tried it, and six years ago got my license back, so I am driving again after thirty years.”
Way back when Joan was really having problems, program folks had suggested that she pray for her husband, but she had been reluctant. Initially she said, “I’m not going to,” and she refused for quite awhile. But she eventually started to pray for George, and ended up with no ill feelings toward him. “Before George passed away in 2001, he and his wife came over to my house to look at some old photos. Rick was there, too. At the end of our visit, George and I gave each other a warm program hug and kiss.”At a later date, George said to his son, “If it wasn’t for the booze, I’ll bet your mom and I would still be together.”
At the funeral for George in 2001, Rick and Joan stayed at his home. Joan says she was in the living room with his wife, talking. Rick was outside, when he suddenly came running in from the back porch, saying, “Mom!’Come out fast!There’s something I’ve got to show you!” When Joan got outside, she could hardly believe her eyes. There in the sky was a large, beautiful rainbow in vivid, bold colors -- almost close enough to touch. Joan says, “I had a gigantic awakening that day.”
The rainbow is just one of many reasons why Joan so firmly believes that, eventually, something good comes out of every bad. There are other reasons, many others, including some recent examples that help to prove her point:
One is the miracle of reconciliation between Joan and her two eldest children who disappeared from her life in 1977. Today, Joan reports, “John and Barbara have both crept back into my life.” John now calls her every Sunday, and Barbara talks with her very often. Joan says, “I’m finding out about her -- things I didn’t know about her family life.” This is the kind of thing that Joan calls “a gigantic.” It’s what she means when she says God answers prayers and that good comes of every bad, eventually.
Another example is the healing of the 25-year rift between Joan and her siblings. Joan’s sister ended up with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, so Joan was on the phone many times with Audrey’s family and with her brother as well. Joan says, “It was a gigantic answer to my prayers for family unity.”Again, light overcame darkness, good came out of bad.
Recently came a day when Joan’s brother called with an invitation to his daughter’s wedding. Joan attended the festivities with Rick, who drove her round-trip, as he lives conveniently near Joan’s house. Joan says a beautiful compliment came from her brother, when he asked how she manages to stay so peaceful and serene. Joan replied, “Saying my prayers, attending meetings, and reading Twelve-Step literature every day.”
In the eyes of others, Joan’s serenity is also due to another fact: she has learned to view things differently. “Program has taught me to use my spiritual eyes,” she says. She now sees the need to pray for the helping hand of God and she recognizes it when it comes.
Joan is deeply grateful to God, who has helped everything fall into place. For so many years, she endured frightening storms of epileptic seizures and spousal abuse. In those days, Joan says, her entire life seemed hopeless and grim. “Things were so black for so long,” she says. And then, she pauses and looks up to say:
“You have to weather the storm to appreciate the rainbow.”
I was discussing this painting with Joan just the other day. She had given me permission to post her story on my blog, and I had chosen this image, which is entitled Bird of Paradise. She said, “This painting is perfect because, for so much of my life, everything was jet black.” And then, last Saturday night, she went to bed and never woke up. We buried her yesterday.
It is hard to comprehend that she is no longer sitting here among us, sharing her experience, strength and hope by the grace of God. But we are grateful -- grateful that she passed so gently and peacefully from this world into the next; grateful to know that we know where she is now: fully in the Light, completely free like the Bird of Paradise.