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  • I’ll never forget Mary Ann’s funeral service. I think it was 1990, which would have been six years after the magical year when the group had really been a dynamic force. Many of us had wound up at that group, from as many different avenues and backgrounds imaginable, but once there, we’d all known we were home. It was such a diverse, insane mix of individuals, but the vibrancy of that group was amazing. We’d stumbled onto something that seemed to be especially effective with the real outcasts, like we each had individually been, the ones who just couldn’t make it anywhere else. For awhile there, it just kept growing and becoming more of a force for good, that group, and the joy of watching a lost soul come in and find themselves was beautiful.

    And then, it had all gotten crazy. We’d run afoul of the larger organization because we didn’t play by their prescribed set of rules. We were a threat to their perceived control, and they felt they had to exercise their supposed authority, and exorcise us from their ranks. That was fine with us, we didn’t really need them, anyway – they didn’t have to kick us out, we walked, when it became clear what the cost of staying would have been.

    The problems had started when we learned that not everyone in the group felt that way. Some felt a loyalty to the larger organization, and wanted to stay there. They were apparently willing to follow the guidelines laid down, to edit their personal experience so as not to offend the “purists” in the organization who were trying to prescribe a narrow definition of what was acceptable to share in a meeting. Those of us who were already walking couldn’t understand those who decided to stay, and vice versa.

    We couldn’t have admitted it to ourselves at the time, but that’s when we began to lose the essence of what made that group so dynamic and effective at helping lost souls. It just wasn’t the same after that. Each of the splinter groups continued to go through the motions of what it had been doing before, but it was now motions they were going through. Somewhere along the line, the joy and the unleashed energy that had been evident before, wasn’t quite there. We faked it, and kidded ourselves that it was, but it had gotten lost somewhere in the rift. Things just weren’t the same.
  • But, of course, life goes on, and we all did our best with what we had in front of us, and we soldiered on, and dealt with the realities of life, each in our own ways. It was really difficult for us – we kind of lived right on the fault line of the split. Our dear friends S & B were already on their way back up to Philly from Maryland to move into our South Philly apartment with us. They had decided to stay with the group in the larger organization, so the entire six months that we lived together were a strange, intense time. We remained friends with them – in fact, that entire time was the six months leading up to our wedding, and they were both in our wedding party, she the Matron of Honor. I was stressed out enough over the coming wedding – I don’t believe I have ever been so stressed out in my entire life. I’ve always chaulked it up to the stress of planning the wedding, but looking back, I can see there were a few other factors involved in adding to my stress level. I just wanted the wedding to be done, and have that formality over with. We were already “one”, I didn’t get what the big deal about declaring it to God and the world in a big, formal wedding was all about, but it was a necessary thing, so I went along with it. I’m probably lucky I didn’t suffer a damn stroke during that time! I really was stressed the hell out.

    But, as time went on, we all kind of went our separate ways, and lived our lives. Then, Mary Ann passed away. It was 1990, six years later, and her funeral was the first thing that brought us all back together again. She had been an especially broken being when she’d found us, and her transformation had been one of the more amazing ones. She had become a real force of nature, a dynamo of a lady, and had touched us all with her wit and her compassion. Now, here we all were, back together to share in the celebration of her life. Some of us swore she set it all up this way, and I don’t doubt that she did, or that at least she was tickled that we were all back together, if only for that brief and shining moment.

    It was at her service that the next chapter of our lives became readily apparent, like a bright light had suddenly been shown into a dark fog we had been stuck in for awhile, and that light led us right into our future. We followed it, despite the conventional wisdom and logic that said it was crazy, and we never looked back. Ironically, S and B were major players in helping us to find our way into that next chapter. It was the best thing we could have done at the time. I’ve always felt like Mary Ann had something to do with that. It felt like her parting gift to us.
  • I’ve often wondered if that happened for anyone else at that service. Did anyone else find a way forward, as a direct result of attending her memorial service? It wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

    This weekend is an opportunity to go back, and meet up with some of those people who were a part of that special group, at a special time in all of our lives. It’s been a while in the works, but it’s all just kind of come together in the past week or two. It’s another one of these “life reunions” that have been happening over the past 2 -3 years, as opportunities to meet up with folks with whom we’ve had special connections at key moments in our lives, have come up, and we just keep saying “Yes!” when they do, and go there when it's time.

    And none of these reunions have been strictly about looking back. All have helped me to go forward, with just another piece of who I am put back in place, and reinforced with love, clarity and a better understanding of who I am, and what I'm doing here.

    I’m just sitting here wondering if Mary Ann will be there? It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if she was. This would be just the sort of thing she would have loved.
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