CLARENCE "GOES HOME"
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful
servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make
thee ruler over many things:
enter thou into the joy of
Matthew 25:21 (King James Version of the Bible)
was November of 1983; and Clarence was off on another of his
many speaking engagements. This particular one was in British
was feeling a little under the weather and thought that he was
coming down with a bad cold. However, being the trooper that
he was, he felt that, even though he was possibly sick, he must
go on and speak. He felt he had a message to carry; and all
those good people had taken the time and effort, not to mention
the expense, to bring both Clarence and his wife Grace all the
way up to Canada. He was the main speaker; and never before
had he backed down from a speaking engagement.
got progressively worse as the days passed. By the time the
weekend of the conference arrived, he had gotten much worse.
He was coughing, and his body was racked with pain. Both he
and Grace spent much time in their room together, praying for
a healing. Other Christians, who were there had "laid hands"
upon him and had anointed him with oil. The healing for which
they had been praying had only partially transpired. Just enough
to enable Clarence to regain some strength, continue on, and
was Saturday, the day he was going to speak. Clarence had spent
a restless night; and despite Grace's insistence that he rest,
Clarence decided to go on with the talk. He had a commitment
to fulfill, and he was going to fulfill it, no matter what.
night, after sitting through the introductions and opening remarks,
Clarence began to make his way to the podium. He felt miserable
and weak. His body ached all over.
began his talk; and at many points, he had to stop to catch
his breath. Halfway through the talk, he lost his voice and
could not continue. He was rushed to a local physician; and
it was discovered, after a lengthy examination, that he had
contracted laryngitis and some sort of bronchial infection.
and Grace were invited by one of the local A.A.s to stay at
his home since Clarence was in too weakened a condition to make
the arduous trip home , back to Florida. Eventually, Clarence
gained enough strength to make the long plane ride home.
and Grace had both decided, during the trip home, to cancel
the balance of his speaking engagements until he was better
and more able to give them his full attention and energy. His
health improved slightly, except for the lingering congestion
which refused to abate.
close friend offered Clarence and Grace the unlimited use of
his beach front condominium so that Clarence could rest and
recuperate. The warm weather and the beach, especially the sunsets,
cheered Clarence. However, the nagging congestion would not
go away. Clarence and Grace continuously prayed, and believed
for a miracle.
night, Clarence all but collapsed, and had to be rushed to Orlando.
He was admitted into Florida Hospital and stayed there from
December 20th. through January 23, 1984.
condition worsened, and Grace stayed by his side day and night.
This despite her doctor's admonition that her health would eventually
deteriorate and that she too would probably become a patient.
Grace, in the past, had been plagued by a series of heart attacks;
and the doctors were concerned that the arduous pace she was
setting would bring on another attack.
Grace refused to budge. She stayed by Clarence's side throughout
his ordeal, constantly praying. Her prayers were echoed by these
of hundreds of people whose lives had been touched by Clarence.
attending physicians tried numerous medications and combinations
of medications to effect a change in Clarence's condition. However,
no improvement was forthcoming. Test continued to enable the
physicians to determine the origin of his illness and enable
them to treat it with positive results.
tests proved one thing conclusively. Clarence had developed
a malignancy in his left lung. Due to the size of the malignancy,
Clarence's weakened condition, and his advanced age (he was
82 at the time), the doctors decided not to operate. It would
be too dangerous, they felt.
they arranged for a series of low dosage radiation treatments
followed by a period of rest. Then another series of radiation
treatments would begin again.
doctors felt that, if Clarence showed some improvement after
the first series of treatments, he could go home and complete
the rest phase as an outpatient until he needed to undergo the
next series of radiation treatments.
condition did improve enough for him to go home to Casselberry,
Florida, to his home at 142 Lake Triplett Drive South. Supplied
with oxygen tanks, and a small suitcase, containing the myriad
of medications that he was given, Clarence was transported home
second series of radiation treatments ended on February 9th,
just two days before the 46th anniversary of his sobriety date.
He had returned home with oxygen tanks which were, by this time,
in constant use to relieve the difficulty he was having in breathing.
These plus medications that were to be taken hourly in order
to stave off further infection due to his weakened condition
and low white blood cell count.
had a visiting nurse, who visited three times a week to help
out and to administer injections of a medication intended to
rebuild his immune system, which had been weakened by the radiation
and the cancer.
by all this medical care, the short visits by close friends,
Grace's prayers, and the prayers of others, Clarence began to
show some signs of improvement.
was during this period of improvement that the author was allowed
to come to Florida and spend a week with Clarence and Grace.
He realized that this time spent together would probably be
the last while Clarence was alive. The author had the choice,
due to financial limitations at the time, either to come down
then, or to come to Clarence's funeral. Both possibilities were
discussed; and it was decided that it would be more beneficial
for the book project to choose the former. The author personally
decided that it would be better for the author, as his friend
and sponsee, to see Clarence while he was still alive, rather
than attend his funeral. The author wanted to remember Clarence's
smile and his sense of humor, not just the empty shell of his
physical body in a casket.
the author's arrival at their home, Clarence was asleep; and
Grace's face was showing the strain of her long and arduous
ordeal. She kept believing that God would heal her beloved Clarence.
was also well aware of the fact that God had but two ways of
healing. At least of the kind she was praying for: A physical
healing, that would remove the cancer and restore Clarence to
health so that he could continue in doing His work amongst "rummies;"
or, as she believed, a final healing which would indicate that
Clarence had finished God's work appointed for him here on earth.
Both Clarence and Grace believed that if this work was indeed
finished, Clarence would be welcomed home to be with his God.
And all of us knew that there were enough people whom Clarence
had taken through the steps that would be able to carry on and
assume his mantel.
author was put up in Clarence's study, amongst volumes of A.A.
books, photographs of Clarence, taken during various periods
of his life, souvenirs of the many world-wide trips he had taken
during the previous forty-six years.
were plaques containing awards and citing achievements. There
were "thank-yous" and other mementos. The walls exuded a sense
of history, and they portrayed a sense of humility, for nothing
ostentatious appeared amongst the various items. Despite the
absence of humility that seemed a part of Clarence's public
appearances, this room was the antithesis of those outward appearances.
author unpacked, washed up after the long trip, went into the
living room, and saw that Clarence was awake and sitting in
his favorite chair. It was the recliner next to the fireplace.
The very same fireplace in front of which he had sat over the
years. Clarence began spinning tales, conversing about A.A.'s
past history, discussing what he felt were present problems.
ever present oxygen tanks stood by his side, reminding of the
obvious infirmity of the man who had once been so proud and
healthy. Despite his long ordeal, he did not appear to be drawn
or down in spirit. He removed the tubing from his nose and smiled.
He welcomed the author into his home and apologized for not
being awake on the author's arrival.
said he could not speak for very long as it was arduous for
him to do so. He said he would have to continue with his oxygen
tanks. He apologized again and then returned the oxygen mask
to his face and sank back into his chair. The strain of attempting
to speak was taking its toll.
was tinkering in the little kitchen, preparing herbal tea and
snacks. She called out, asking the author to sit down and relax,
saying, "You must be tired and hungry after your trip from New
R., who had been a close friend of theirs for over twenty years,
kept vigil constantly. He was doing whatever he could to make
their lives more comfortable. We all sat and talked about the
retreats already planned for May 11-13 and September 21-23 of
all knew that Clarence would probably not be there to speak
or even in attendance. However, no one wanted to speak of that.
These retreats were to be part of the annual retreats Clarence
and Grace had put on for many years. At first, the retreats
were called "Camp Florida Retreats." Later, when they were moved
to a different location, they were (and still are), called the
"Leesburg Life Enrichment Retreats." These retreats, as well
as the ones in New York and Amery, Wisconsin, were a time honored
ritual for both Clarence and Grace.
sat in his chair; and, when he could, he would take part in
the conversation. He would tell a joke or two, speak of special
happenings during the retreats over the years. Sometimes he
just nodded his head.
spoke about the healings at the retreats, of the people who
had taken their steps at these retreats, and of the motorcycle
gang that had come down to the retreat one year. The "bikers"
had frightened the older crowd. But after some of them had shared
their experiences, they had become welcome as just another "bunch
oxygen tank by Clarence's side, there was a blanket upon his
lap to ward off any chill that might develop. And the stenciled
"target" was visible on the left side of his chest. This enabled
the doctors to focus their radiation treatments, and were constant
reminders of the cancer which had invaded his body.
most of the old-time A.A. members (the pioneers), had died as
the result of years of self-destructive behavior in which they
had engaged. The smoking, the drinking, and the rough lives
they had led. Bill Wilson had died of complications from emphysema.
Doc had prostate cancer which spread eventually throughout his
body and to his throat. Most had died as a result of the ravages
of their youth. Through all his present cancer ordeal Clarence
was holding on to a faith in that, whatever God wanted, he (Clarence)
would get. After all, He (God) was Clarence's manager, Clarence
spoke often, whenever his strength would allow it. We laughed
at the jokes and the stories he told. He retained his sense
of humor despite his weakened condition and of the obvious prognosis
of imminent death.
when not tinkering around the house or waiting on the various
special guests who dropped by from around the country and around
the world, was always by his side. The love of her life needed
her, and she was there.
had met Clarence in July of 1969; and they were married for
life on September 26, 1971. Clarence had always insisted, that
whenever possible, she accompany him on his speaking commitments
as he often relied upon her strength and prayers.
as Grace was preparing to meet Clarence on one of these commitments,
she wrote this letter to her soon-to-be husband. They both knew,
from the day they met, that they would be married. Grace's letter
shows the love she had for her beloved. The letter was written
on Monday night, July 22, 1970 and said:
precious Duke -
packed and ready to fly away to meet you tomorrow night. Praise
the Lord -
darling should anything happen to me, Plane fall, etc.- Try
to remember that you have made me happier than I even have any
right to be. Should my time to die come before I am in your
precious arms again I want you to know that, with all my heart
I shall forever love you. Yes even in Heaven we shall eternally
signed the letter, "Your Amazing Grace." She added a P.S.. "...I
shall tear this letter up upon my return home Aug. 4th." She
never did "tear this letter up," and Clarence kept it with his
most important papers. Their relationship was the closest thing
to perfection in a marriage that the author had ever seen. They
were truly husband and wife to each other.
time came for the author to return to New York. We tearfully
said our "so longs." - Never good by. For that would be a lack
of believing. Yet the author knew in his heart he would never
see this man again. At least not upon this earthly plane.
author packed his belongings. As he left, they could not see
the tears which were running down his cheeks. The flight back
to New York was a sad and lonely one. The author had grown to
love this man and was about to lose him. Clarence was missed
already. In the five short years of our relationship, as the
author's sponsor and friend, with Clarence's help and guidance,
begun to understand his own recovery, true recovery from alcoholism
in its spiritual sense. He had begun to learn, from the example
of Clarence's life, what finding God was all about.
weeks passed and Clarence's condition worsened. He had to be
placed back in the hospital. The author spoke almost daily with
him while he was in the hospital, honored to be one of the few
people with whom Clarence would speak in the last few weeks.
These few were Bob R., Steve and Sue F., Grace, Marjorie Dyan
Hirsch, and the author.
was another New Yorker whom the author had met through Clarence.
Clarence loved Marjorie dearly; and when he had heard she was
coming down to Florida to be there with him, he hung on, despite
his worsening condition. Marjorie helped out and was constantly
in the hospital by his side.
was about eleven-thirty at night on the twenty second of March.
The winds were blowing outside; and, despite the insulated glass
in the author's windows, the curtains were fluttering. The house
was quiet, and the chill in the room hit as the phone began
to ring. The author did not want to answer it for he knew what
was about to be reported from the other end of the line.
choked voice on the other end said, "Clarence has gone home
to be with the Lord." It was Marjorie. The author asked how
Grace and the rest of the family was. Marjorie replied that,
despite the obvious loss, there was also an atmosphere of joy.
They all felt they knew where Clarence had gone and with whom
a brief conversation in which the author and Marjorie tried
to console each other, the phone call ended. Tears once again
began streaming down the author's cheeks. He had lost a true
friend and sponsor.
four P.M., on the twenty-fifth of March, 1984, in the First
Presbyterian Church of Maitland, Florida, Clarence's last earthly
A.A. meeting was held. First there was a full Masonic service.
As stated, Clarence was a 32nd Degree Mason.
Masonic service was followed by a few speakers who had known
and loved Clarence. There was Steve F., Bob R., Fr. Joe E.,
and Marjorie. Clarence was also there. However, this was probably
the only meeting he had ever attended in his honor at which
he didn't speak. The author felt, God was also there, and that
He spoke through those who carried, and continue to carry, His
was buried at Cameron Cemetery in Cameron, North Carolina in
Grace's family plot. Though not too many people attended the
actual burial, all were there in spirit. We all knew that Clarence's
earthly remains were not important. Only the message which he
had imparted to us.
spirit shall forever live in the tens of thousands of lives
he touched and will continue to touch. His spirit will continue,
as those who he "fixed" go forth to carry this message of experience,
strength, hope, and permanent sobriety.
Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name...