She turned around at the door. “Hey – did you know R?”
I shook my head, but then again, I barely remember anyone from back then.
My husband dug into his vast memory of names and faces and found her there, somewhere between rehab and that long year of sobriety.
“Of course I remember her. She…didn’t look like she was doing well the last time I saw her.”
Our newly found old friend eagerly asked “Is she alive? Do you know? Have you heard anything?”
My husband shook his head sadly and we all stood in brooding silence.
She sighed and gathering up her children she said her goodbyes.
Earlier that afternoon, as we were walking home, our four-year old casually walked past a little boy and his mother. Turning the corner, she cheerfully informed us that the little boy was her friend, the new kid in her kindergarten. We immediately went back and I introduced myself to the mother. After she told us her husband was in the States for a few days, we invited them to spend the rest of the afternoon with us. She accepted our offer and we soon found ourselves in comfortable conversation sitting in our living room with her two children and our two children getting along beautifully.
And then, somehow, we got to talking about the past. And somehow, we realized that we knew the same people. And somehow we figured out that we sort of knew each other. And then we finally understood that she was Harry’s sister and that our daughter’s new friend was named for our dear, dear friend who succumbed to the trials and tribulations of living the sort of life we lived.
Here we were, living our wonderful, happy lives…children running around us…talking with another survivor of a hell only those who have been through can understand. We talked about them all…the dead…the missing…the lost…
That night, as I lay awake thinking…remembering…I saw words float across my brain.
…tribute…this is a tribute…a resounding proclamation…a shout of triumph! A scream…a cheer…a tribute! Not to those we laid to rest…not to those who we lost…but to those…who made it! A tribute to the boys and girls who stood up and made a change! Those who released the bonds of drugs, alcohol, fear, depression…and created hope! Those who made a future out of the deepest, darkest caves and lit their hearts with extinguished flames and shattered dreams. A Tribute!!!
I fell asleep to the beat of the marching letters, smiling as the names and faces of people who are alive and well joined the parade of success.