I posted about my friend “Terry” passing on. I went to his memorial service yesterday. A glorious sunny day and an ideal location being held in a small village church at the end of a muddy lane. The church was packed – standing room only. There aren’t many people who live that long who get that kind of send off, even the vicar who knew him well remarked on it.
It was a very odd day for me. I was there primarily to say good bye to a great source of comfort, strength, wisdom and inspiration in my recovery. However I know his sons well. We were at school together and in teenage bands that Terry and his wife had to put up with rehearsing in their house and ferrying us to gigs etc. because we were all too young to drive. I’d contacted one of the sons straight after Terry’s death and expressed my condolences and a brief word on what he’d meant to me.
Here is one of the conundrums of AA’s anonymity. Terry kept AA isolated from his family for the 24 years he spent in it. Fair enough – that is his choice. I always respect that aspect of our traditions so in the last 10 years I’d never “outed” myself or their father when I met one of the sons around town etc. Our daughters were in the same year at school throughout their school years, so there were other reasons for not acknowledging my relationship with their Dad then. The other son lives a long way off and I’ve not seen him in probably 30 years as school reunions faded after a couple of years post school completion. The scene yesterday was quiet odd with these two old friends embracing me in huge hugs never before known and asking me about their Dad and how was it so many people in AA seemed to owe him a debt. I tried to answer. They clearly have no idea of the bond alcoholics have with one another or the “give it away to keep it” mentality that Step 12 instils in us.
Also some other old school friends were there to support the brothers and therefore I had the weirdest day of saying goodbye to a dear friend, celebrating his life, finally squaring a circle with his family about AA and then meeting old friends and catching up on 30 years of life… which inevitably begged the question from them. “Why are you here?” I’m open about my AA loyalties anyway but given I had been asked to speak at the service anyway about Terry and what he meant to his home group and those of who knew him it was a bit of a give away. Lots of “I’m really sorry that you met him like that” type comments. “I’m not” I replied. “Getting sober and forging friendships with great people like Terry has been the best thing that could have happened in my life”. You can see in their faces that they just don’t get it. Which is all perfectly as it should be.
Yesterday was an odd day in terms of so many mixed emotions – one point one of the photos was Terry helping us in 1978 setting up for a gig at the school. My God – was my hair ever that long! I thought no one had pictures from those days left. There I was with my hacked to bits Strat copy (I’d chiselled an Ibanez humbucker into the bridge position years before that became the cool thing to do) strapped around my neck, hair down my back, cigarette drooping from my lips… Terry miming a mickey take guitar-hero pose behind me. Ever the joker – I’d never seen that photo or known he’d done that then. So I left with a smile on my face and in my heart.