Twenty-four years ago a friend crashed, his life obliterated beyond recognition. In whatever way, when darkness shatters the light—ever been there—more than once—life is so bad that death is not worse. That was 1993. Now. Well, I share. My friend gave me permission and I am sharing because of my friend’s experiences…and how redemption does happen. It really does. Within my friend’s selfhood.
I think the thing I am most uninformed about is myself. I started to really give myself permission to care about me in Sept. of ’93 when I’d become quite toxic with: the end of my first marriage, promiscuity, cocaine, marijuana, good wine and undiagnosed manic depression. One very revelatory evening at my friend’s house, he saw ‘thru’ me, then he saw ‘to’ me, got me to detox and then to a voluntary inpatient clinic near us where I got diagnosed, got the chemical help for my brain’s chemical imbalance, got away from all those ‘substances’ and got ‘kicked out’ after 5 days of a 9-day signup.
The ‘clarion’ call (is that a religious thing or is it just a bit more eloquent than “Wake up and smell the coffee?”) came at the rehab clinic the night before I was heading home in the group meeting area fairly late at night. I was fiddling around with my guitar which some dear friends brought me along with clean clothes around my second day. I was vaguely aware of the overweight, middle-aged woman with the bandaged wrists laid out in the barcalounger mostly oblivious to the world due to Haldol or Thorazine.
For some reason, the John Prine tune “Angel from Montgomery” leaped out of my musical mental rolodex and I began to strum the chorus-over and over and over since it’s all I knew of the song. If you’ve ever heard a decent recording of jazz great Oscar Peterson (a deity of the piano), you can easily make out his famous mumbling behind the music. I started to hear a bit of that mumbling while I was playing, looking at nothing in particular in this bleak, sparsely furnished room on Rehab.
In astonishment, I look over at my lady friend, still reclining with her eyes closed, and she’s SINGING the chorus to “Angel from Montgomery” under her breath! In the words of Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein”, “It’s ALIVE! It’s ALIVE!” I keep strumming the chorus and only the chorus-her voice begins to gain a little in confidence and presence. Staff members at this point have come into the room looking askance and in disbelief. I remember looking at them with a smile, shrugging my shoulders as if I don’t really know what’s happening, but I keep strumming and she keeps singing. I recall that one nurse had tears, the one who told me that this woman had tried to take her life not a week prior.
Late morning the next day I didn’t even recognize this woman who was out in the sunny courtyard with her husband and teenage boy. She was totally alert and responsive and wanted to know if I still had my guitar so she could teach me the entire lyric to “Angel from Montgomery”: “If dreams were lightning/thunder was desire”…”Just give me one thing/that I can hold on to/to believe in this living is just a/hard way to go.”
Wow, what a digression. I’m saying, I think I take pretty god care (‘good’ care, but what a great typo!) with being active, good diet, hydration, yoga EVERY morning and no substance abuse since Sept. of 93. Oh yeah-and my spouse–a gift of Yahweh. I still don’t think I know myself as well as I’d like. When my employment changes will I be missed? Will I be needed elsewhere? Where is that and why do I feel so ill-prepared for the future. For now I’ll stay in the moment. For as you write and share so often, “Friend? Know you are loved…no matter what.”