by Bree L. 

Julia was only 45 and battled cancer for three years. She’d been through chemo, surgery and everything a person could throw at her. Now, Julia was accepting her cancer and dying. This bubbly, happy blonde was a regular at our Bernal New Day meeting. She talked about how she used to come home from the night shift as a nurse at San Francisco General Hospital and drink wine, then could not stop. After coming to A.A. she accumulated five years’ sobriety. 

One day she said she was quitting her job, renting out the condo she owned in the Mission, and going home to her family in Vermont. A year later she returned to California. She dropped into our meetings every so often to say hello. I learned she had cancer, had gone to Vermont for treatment, and was carrying on with her life “as if.” She moved in with an old friend in Santa Barbara who, it turned out, had many drinking pals who liked to gather for wine every evening. Julia lost her sobriety.

She was so pleased with the five days she’d accumulated

A faithful pal from Bernal New Day who had kept in touch all along stepped up and offered Julia a safe, sober place in Daly City. It was a purposeful decision. Julia gathered her belongings and drove back to the Bay Area. She was so pleased with the five days she’d accumulated. Once again she was back with our Bernal meeting, which by then was on Zoom.

Julia had been here for a while, and I wondered why she wasn’t seeing oncologists and proactively fighting the cancer. It was her decision not to have any further treatment. As a nurse, she knew the difficulties of end-stage heroics and chose to go out on her own terms. I marvel at her courage and know she couldn’t have done it without the support of a program and a Higher Power.

precious thoughts fill in that new chasm

We continued with our morning Zoom meetings. Sometimes Julia would be there, sometimes not. I’d call her periodically and we’d talk about our mundane concerns, as program people do. She was always upbeat and positive. I think I got more out of those phone calls than she did.

The last time Julia came to our Zoom meeting, she said good-bye to us all in the Bernal group. She looked drawn and unwell, unlike the vibrant Julia I knew, but her spirit prevailed. “Thank you for all you’ve done,” she said. “I’m dying as a sober woman.”

I’m grateful she completed the program

In my life and my work, I have been around a lot of death. Each one brings to the front the many now gone, as well as the ones I wanted to forget, like when my mother died. And now Julia is gone, too. She died on August 24th. It’s a hole that can’t be filled. 

Over time, memories and precious thoughts fill in that new chasm of emptiness. It seems she was here for too short a time, but HP decides the timing, not me. I still remember her good-bye, and I’m grateful she completed the program. She’s at peace now. I loved her as a fellow alcoholic.

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