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A flock of crows

a harbinger of what was to come

By Frances TaylorPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
A flock of crows
Photo by Pelly Benassi on Unsplash

I opened the door for her and she pointed toward the sky. "Look at that,'' she said. I looked up and for a few seconds a giant flock of crows darkened the sky. "Wow,' I said, and invited her in.

We sat down for a talk. I hadn't seen her for a week or so, and but our conversation is often the same. I work in a recovery program, and I am in recovery myself for over 20 years. I again offered her the services of our program to help her quit drinking. Her life is unmanageable, she admits that. She has been homeless for the past few years and winter is again approaching. She was shaking at the thought of what was to come, a cold lonely and dangerous experience she knew only too well.

I once asked her what her goals for her life were, where she wanted to go.

" I want my own house or apartment, a car, a job, I've had all that once,'' she said. For a moment, she reflected on the impact alcohol has had in her life. "I don't want to stop drinking. I can stop. I've done it before. I just don't want to do it right now.''

And this time again, her answer is no, that our kind of help is not what she needs. "I don't talk to anyone clinical, that is not what I need,'' she said. She said something about being able to come and go as she pleased, business to take care of. Being surrounded by four walls, talking to some therapist or group was not what she was interested in.

Recovery is a gift once you have it, but its one you have to work for, a leap of faith to something you have never known is on the other side. Some people are never really able to envision that, and they cling to what they know, even as they gradually lose everything else.

I was able to offer her temporary respite from the driving rain that soaked had her belongings in the tent she used to sleep in the woods nearby. She had cried at the thought of having to sleep outside that night. She was one of few others there that evening nowhere else to go.

She was at first grateful, but during her stay her mood began to change. She became aggressive towards others there and paranoid about their intentions. "Make him sit down and stop looking at me,'' she hissed as another person in the program walked by without looking at her. "You're going to have to do something about him."

We realized that she was drinking while inside our facility, a definite no-no. I asked her to leave. She angrily snatched up her belonging, muttering curses under her breath, and went out into the night.

We wondered how long she could survive the way she was going, and a day or so later we got the answer. She was found to have died in the woods, most likely of hypothermia. Moments before I heard the news, I pulled up in my car and again saw a black flock of crows pass overhead. I wondered what it meant that I was one of the last people to see her, and that I had been the one that sent her back out in the rain that night. Someone from our program identified her body for the police. Her family lives out of town, possibly another state.

In my later discussion with colleagues, we agreed that we had done our best for her, that she had the right to make her own choices. And we are moving on, but still thinking about what might have been.


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