I must admit the truth. Hearing of Ashleigh Paris death in the tragic van accident about a month ago hit me the hardest. Just the night before, she and her best friend Morgan had helped a homeless man at our building and we shared some very meaningful conversation.
It was not just for her that I grieved, but also Morgan who I knew would be devastated. The next day at our impromptu gathering to support the program folks involved and others who joined as well in support, she sought me out in the crowd and wept in my arms. It was Ashleigh who convinced Morgan to come out of addiction and into recovery and at every encounter I would make sure to remember Morgan's name because Ashleigh told me not to forget it. She treasured her best friend and others as well.
Many times Ashleigh would come into ATB and head straight for the Women's Clothing Closet, and I would ask her did she not have enough clothes? Her response was that she was getting some for her roommates. That was typical Ashleigh, more concerned about others. She and I had multiple conversations about how she and her mom made spaghetti and how she would make some for me, and as I stared at her slightly crooked but beautiful nose, I saw the Italian, knowing that would be a special treat.
But my favorite moment with her was when she asked me to baptize her. Maybe asked is too gentle a word - she demanded in a strong way that I do so as soon as possible. Maybe she knew something, but there was no doubt this woman, regardless of her young age and past had made me think of her as a daughter, and more truth be told I have cried through typing this blog.
I miss her badly, as I also miss the other courageous women who perished. But I know heaven just gained a most beautiful soul who earned her angel wings on her last days on this earth!
I have often thought as heaven gets a little closer to me, what message about my life is being delivered to my children, grandchildren and my friends? Not that there is an approval rating to be searched for, but rather will they remember me for my faith or my follies which have been plentiful?
Last week while at Good Landing Recovery doing a session for men, I mentioned a story about one of the survivors of the tragic van accident and afterward one of the guys came up to speak to me. Turns out he was in prison with the husband of Kristie Whitfield who perished in that fire, and he recounted how her new found faith caused her husband to find his and how he had a spiritual impact on this guy who was speaking to me.
Kristie was one of the three that we baptized who died and she had sat with me to tell of her incredible story of pain and grief along with her struggle to put it all behind and stay sober. But her faith overshadowed her follies and long after her death she will be remembered for how God remade her life into a beautiful story. Too young and not intended to be memorialized so quickly, but yet an inspiration now to her peers.
What will ours be? What will they say when we are gone that is beyond the cliche words of how we will be missed or how wonderful and kind we were? Will they say we had an impact for Christ on others, will they say that God turned our messes into messages of hope? Not that we were heroic but will they say we were humble and generous?
We are all still processing the now 7 women's deaths, and each one we knew had a special impact on us that left behind a legacy of uncommon life change. So few who have been addicted make it beyond just a few days or weeks to sobriety, and even fewer have a change of faith.
In these next few weeks I will remind you of how uncommon they were!
They fumbled and stumbled in the top of the 12th inning and basically gave away 3 runs to the Phillies. They were down 3 runs and all looked lost. But for the third time during the game the Braves came back and won in dramatic style, with major emotions spilling over in the celebration.
To put this into perspective, they have had an up and down year when many predicted a championship. A lot like us, people say we have major potential, but we just keep screwing up big time when it's all on the line. But the Braves not only made that comeback but went on to win 6-1 last night looking like the team we thought they were without the shortcomings. We don't know for sure, but it looks like The Turning Point.
A.A.'s 12 Steps & 12 Traditions quotes this on page 75 "A great turning point in our lives came when we sought for humility as something we really wanted, rather than something we must have. It marked the time when we could commence to see the full implication of Step Seven: "Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings."
Here's an example: the Apostle Paul thought he knew it all, had it all together and was willing to have others killed who opposed him. No humility, just pride in his religious standing. Then he was humbled and blinded by God's force, but because he loved God, he must have wanted to be humbled to understand what God wanted during his 3 days of being blind. He found out, his shortcomings were removed, and he went on to win many souls for Christ.
It's a bit of a stretch, 3 runs down, 3 days of being blind, but the results may be the same, a win, a Turning Point! Think about it, what was yours in whatever situation had you losing or blinded?
I am not saying the Braves had it, but Paul did, and you and I may have had it too - divine intervention!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.