Wednesday, April 2, 2008


The first time I saw Lynn was at an AA meeting about 7 years ago. A very diminuative person to begin with, she looked even more so due to her severe health problems-she had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and its symptoms were rampant.  She wore a pink bathrobe and slippers because her distended abdomen and swollen feet would not accomodate street clothes. She used a walker because her swollen feet were virtually numb and her balance was off. She had lost some of her hair and what remained stood up like that of a baby bird. Her  skin was yellow. 
She moved like an elderly person, tentative, tired. Lynn was 44.
The story was: Lynn wanted to die sober. She had just endured another episode of public drunkenness , the consequences of which drew her 25 year old daughter into a familiar whirlwind of police, ambulance, emergency room and detox. Lynn didn't want to put Kimmie through it any more, so she went through detox by herself, in her house, with the door locked and the phone off the hook, and then came to a meeting. I don't even know how she got there.
As the months went by, Lynn was staying sober, but also, amazingly, she seemed to be getting better.  She even joked about it as summer came and she was finally able to fit into her shoes, and her hair grew back, and her skin got pinker and a mischevious smile began to appear on her face.   Her worda at meetings inspired all of us and we began calling her our Miracle.  She struggled with the same things all people do who live in functional poverty-the dismissive attitude of doctors, fighting with Medicare to get medication, repeated attempst to get disability, feeling invisible in this system of ours.  But in the middle of all of this-light, gratitude, humor, love, friendship.  She got a job, a car that worked. She repainted her dining room bright red.  She knitted ponchos and scarves. She wore wild earrings. She dated a couple of guys, nothing serious, but part of coming back from the dead and feeling like a woman again, a young and vibrant one at that.
Lynn met a guy at a meeting named Brad--an impossibly tall, thin and lanky guy with a cowboy hat-a country singer with shoulders and heart big enough to hold her.  Within a few months, Lynn announced that she was moving to Montana with him. She gave away or sold everything she owned and they bought a little RV. They left the day after Thanksgiving. We cautioned her about what seemed like a reckless decision--did she really know this guy? Did she want to give up her job, her home, her security, for this great unknown of Brad and MOntana? Yes, she said. Yes, I do, and I am doing it.  There was a calmness about her that put an end to our advice-giving.
Lynn died happy among the mountains of Montana with her true love at her side. The last picture I saw of her shows her standing on a ridge with a white jacket and a cowboy hat, that mischevious smile peeking out at us.  The cancer they had discovered was everywhere. She called me and left a message and three days later she was gone.
Lynn knew what was important, and she had the wisdom and the courage to remain true to it.
She died sober and happy and unencumbered by all of the stuff that we tend to cling to with our very lives. 
Next month would have been her 7th sobriety birthday. I will think of Lynn as I see the flowers come up that she helped me plant in my garden.


annie hagar said...

this just about killed me. i'll be thinking about her today.

Gary Lundquist said...


The Annie LaMott quote raised a question in my mind when Debbie (Pryzwara? ...another of your classmates? We've been married for 27 years, though I don't remember all of them), showed me your blog. Now that I read your post I wish I'd responded sooner.

I'm sorry you won't be attending the class reunion- I'm not exactly thrilled about going myself, but it would have been nice to know that another Friend of Bill W. was in attendance. Of course, thinking back, its probably likely that you and I aren't the only ones.

I loved your story...I love any story that ends with peaceful contented sobriety. And I love those "miracle" stories even more. Someday I'd like to hear yours too. If life brings you over to Chicago, or through Chicago (we're right off of I-80 in the South Suburbs) it would be nice to see you and share a meal....or go to a meeting.

I'm going to read more of your stuff- life on life's terms seems to have been on full display for you lately, but I hope to hear back from you. There are a lot of people with whom I went to school (note lack of dangling preposition? Ms. Console, Sophomore English..or Ms. Stevens in Freshman English?) but very few classmates with whom I can trudge the road to happy destiny.

Gary Lundquist

Anonymous said...

Dear Claudia,
Lynn's story touched my heart deeply and brought me to tears - bittersweet - happy that she was able to die sober - sad that it was so short lived. I'm trying so hard to remember her from any meetings years ago, she seems so familiar.
Your writing was beautiful, poignant and so heartfelt. Thank you for sharing Lynn's story. I will keep her close to my heart.
Love, Deborah