Our OA literature reminds us that nothing in life is permanent. Change is natural and can involve losses, including the ultimate loss, death.

In recovery, we learn to show up—for ourselves, our OA fellows, our families, and our communities. Sometimes, we need to show up for the rituals that attend the death of someone cherished. We can celebrate his or her life through eulogies and obituaries, and this can help us process our grief. But, what about the death of a beloved fellow OA member? My home group experienced this recently, and it’s a little more complex.

Our fellow had been a very proud and open member of OA. Program was vital, woven through every aspect of her life. Her spirituality was deeply important to her, as was her abstinence. She wanted OA represented at her funeral, and at her request, her sponsor delivered a eulogy, breaking his own anonymity and hers. Yet, when her longtime OA membership was included in a first draft of her obituary, her sponsor asked that it be taken out. Why? Our Eleventh Tradition.

Coincidentally, a week after her funeral, the Eleventh Tradition came up in our group’s readings. During my share, I spoke about the odd fact that even in death our public face would have to remain incomplete. Principles above personalities should hold true even then.

Other members chimed in during their shares. One longtimer who devotes many hours to meetings and phone calls mused how non-members might perceive her. Would they feel she didn’t have enough to show for her time? Her conclusion was that it was okay, because whatever she gives to OA is far less than she gets. After, someone else said these shares helped her understand the intent of this Tradition for the first time.

I agreed that I don’t want or need my public face to include my OA life. But, I also believe that the Fellowship could benefit from a forum for expressing our grief and gratitude for our lost members. Such sharing can be very powerful, and I had that experience at the memorial service. Although people from other parts of her life attended, several Twelve Step fellows stood and spoke. One gratefully told the story of how she had taught him how to pray. Someone else described her great sincerity in saying, “I’m glad you called.” Another person mentioned her deep and respectful attentiveness on the phone. Yet another spoke of her strong meditation practice. Our lost member had Ivy League degrees and a brilliant career, but her spiritual and emotional legacy was what many of us cherished most.

My hope is that the Fellowship will find a way for us to celebrate each other’s OA lives after we are gone while honoring our precious anonymity.

— Barbara K., USA

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