Thursday, November 12, 2009


I went to a good friend's memorial service yesterday.  The minister said we were celebrating a "life well lived".

Yale H. was 93 years young when he died last week.  He was amazing from the first to the last. He had 57 years of sobriety. He would have had 58 next month.

His obituary doesn't tell half the story.

When he was up for appointment to Assistant U.S. District Attorney for Colorado, his background check turned up, well, problematic. Yale was never bashful about remembering his past when he came to my home group to tell his story. He may have sobered up a long time ago, but he was clear that he was a bad drunk before he got to AA.

When Bobby Kennedy was getting some flak from his staff about making this appointment, it was reported that he looked at the application and said " says here that Yale hasn't had a drink in ten years. Can anyone else in the room claim that?" Case was closed and Yale got the job.

He was a story teller above all. To see the story of "Rascal", go to this link.  He had a million of them.  Another area he explored was AA history and pre-history.  He wrote a great story about the "Gold Cure" which pre-dated our fellowship. 

The last time I heard Yale's voice was on NPR's Talk of the Nation listener call-in show last January when he called in to the program the Thursday before Obama's inauguration.  You could hear the host gasp as he came to realize the importance of this moment as Yale related, in his mater of fact way, his experience attending the first inauguration of FDR as a congressional staffer.  He had a front row seat for that part of history and could clearly relate the parallels and differences of then and now, first hand.  As the host struggled to get his show's pundits and guests out of the way so that Yale could have more time, you could hear the effect Yale had on others, outside our program.

Beginning over 20 years ago, macular degeneration stole his sight.  He was still active and involved in the community and AA meetings - he was at his home group the week before he died.  Always, he would make sure the newcomer was greeted and made to feel welcome and important.  More than one person I went to a meeting or an AA social event with would ask me "is he really blind?"  It was as if he could see right through you and was completely engaged with you when you were in his presence.

I have never in my life had as sharp a mind as he had at 93.

His marriage of 68 years ended when his beloved wife died a few years ago.  While he was always in love with Jane, Yale was fully human and was quick to find wit with which to share his own failings.  The last 2 times he spoke at my home group, he closed his share with "...we say in AA to 'practice these principles in all our affairs.'  It has been my experience that it's better to just not have any affairs."

The last intimate conversation I had with him was not long before the stock crash.  He related how his neighbor was a day trader and was becoming quite wealthy.  He could appreciate how his neighbor would work hard and concentrate and "lay up stores of riches for later times".  He was envious until he realized that, at his house, he had a constant stream of "visitors" (he hated the terms "sponsor" and "sponsee") who would sit with him for hours each day and realized that he, too, was storing up treasure.

At the service, he was remembered for his wondrous life, mind and, his humility.

I miss him.   It was great to celebrate a "life well lived".


Steve E. said...

Ed, thanks to you, we know this man, even if just slightly. What a wonderful life he must have lived
because he lived it for others.

A fine memorial post for a fine member of AA.

Loved the "Here Rascal, Here Rascal" story.

dAAve said...

The opportunity to know people like this is just another of the countless rewards of recovery.

Scott said...

what a wonderful tribute Ed, I feel as if I knew him...

what dAAve said!

Mary Christine said...

Thank you.

Gabriella Moonlight said...

A life well lived indeed, what a great post! Thank you for sharing his life with us! At least a glimpse of a well lived life!


Syd said...

Ed, thanks for sharing about someone who had so much to offer. I can only imagine the stories that he could tell. I hope that someone wrote them down.

garden-variety drunk said...

thank you for your heart-filled words about Yale. may we all have such a life well lived