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For as long as history has recorded the actions of humans, people have felt the need to explain the mystery of life and death and to answer the questions of why we are here and where we are going. It’s man’s search for meaning, and it is quite possibly the thickest and most tangible thing rooting us all to life as we know it.

To the indigenous peoples of Mexico, all of life was understood in duality. Death was an ending, but it was also considered passage onto somewhere new.  People would be buried with their most treasured possessions. It was believed they would need them in the hereafter. Like most traditional indigenous celebrations, the history of Dia de los Muertos was shaped by the invasion of the Spanish and their zest for bringing Catholicism to the native people. But the practices and the intent of the day has survived more than 3,500 years to be still celebrated worldwide.

Certainly Dia de los Muertos is a day for remembering the dead, but it is significantly more than that. This poignant and beautiful ritual is also a mockery of death.  As the people make preparation, they laugh in the face of the very thing that humans tend to fear most. And there’s something about that which I find both haunting and heartwarming.  Kind of like the photo in today’s blog (courtesy of the best husband on the planet, JM, who found it for me on the WWW!)

You see, like many of you, I know what it is to face death. I suffer from a disease that can only end up with me in the grave if it gets hold of me.  I didn’t always call it that (a disease) and I don’t usually run around giving it human powers (such as saying, it wants me dead) but from the time that I first read Bill’s story, I felt that I finally understood what might be wrong with me. And there was tremendous relief in that.  Here are the things he said that I identified with:

  • I was a part of life at last.
  • I forgot the strong warnings…concerning drink.
  • I fancied myself a leader.
  • I imagined my talent for leadership would put me at the head of vast enterprises.
  • The drive for success was on.
  • At one (bahaha! many many) of the finals I was too drunk to think or write.
  • (My) friends thought a lunacy commission should be appointed.
  • I had arrived.
  • Drink was taking an important and exhilarating part in my life.
  • My drinking assumed more serious proportions.
  • There were many unhappy scenes.
  • Golf (for me it was bartending) permitted drinking every day and night.
  • As I drank, the old fierce determination to win came back. 
  • I found a job, then lost it (multiple times!)
  • Liquor ceased to be a luxury; it became a necessity.
  • Gradually things got worse.
  • I woke up. This had to be stopped.
  • This time I meant business.
  • Shortly afterward I came home drunk. 
  • Was I crazy?
  • Was I crazy?
  • Was I crazy?

I truly didn’t know.  I thought maybe I was. Sometimes I think I still am. I might sit outside under the sunshine on a perfect fall day and seriously ponder the possibility that I have an undiagnosed mental illness. Yet I’m sober. And I live another day to suit up and show up, just like you taught me to. 

On this day, Dia de los Muertos, I celebrate Bill Wilson. 

How a girl like me, who got sober more than 50 years after AA began, can find herself in the pages of a story written by an old man, an old banker, and identify her alcoholism there, I will never really understand. It’s a God thing I guess.  It’s the thing I am most afraid to trust–that God has a plan; that it’s better than mine; that all is well; I am loved.

Laugh in the face of what frightens you today.