A while ago, I was camping with my family and friends way out of phone and internet range. Summer time in the Australian bush, by the river where it was hard to reach and in a quiet, mostly unknown spot, just nature and us. One night, I fell into a deep sleep, you know only the ones you can have when you are off the grid, and when I awoke in the morning I recalled what I thought was an odd but vivid dream.
As I sat and contemplated this in the early morning by the river, I realised it was not a dream, but rather a visitation from my friend and mentor. He appeared, standing at my feet, and he said “I am going into palliative care, I am dying and I have come to say goodbye my friend.” That certainly jolted my heart. I could not call anyone or know his daughter had posted to Facebook that morning he had been moved to palliative care. I did not feel spooked, just quietly comforted by my friend’s thoughtfulness and our deep connection.
We had a friendship spanning some twenty-five years and the feeling between us was often beyond words, which is why him coming to say goodbye did not unnerve me. No matter where I was he was a part of me and the way I lived my life. He was thirty-two years older than me and I think it is fair to say much wiser. When I first met him I had no idea his belief in me would be pivotal in changing the course of my life and who I would become.
Initially as a mentor he gave me time, encouragement, and offered me love unconditionally. Trust me I tested that a few times. He was a fabulous man, always laughing, not without his flaws and struggles, but nonetheless, he had the gift of a generous and kind heart overflowing with love for so many people. He constantly gave of himself, with his example becoming a part of me, holding me through all of my life and he was still giving right to the end of his own life.
I could write so much about him however, what has struck me beyond my memories is how special it is to have someone enter your life who has an unexpected and lasting imprint. It happens to most of us – a teacher, a priest, family member, spiritual teacher, or a friend, and usually way out of left field. People who might be thought of as having little relevance or compatibility to our own lives. I thought this about my friend when I first met him, he was just an old man with a bucket load of enthusiasm for life which was both odd and not so cool. It did not stop him. He found a way through and reached me anyway.
These people, whomever they turn out to be, have an ability to reach within and somehow touch the place that needs the most love. They remain forever connected to your heart no matter how long or brief the encounter. I do not think every one crossing our life or heart has this purpose but a few do. They have the ability to transcend any barriers, be it heartache, fear, insanity, addiction, brokenness or isolation, no matter how tight or resistant one believes they are to being really seen. They reach us.
There is an instant when that person looks into your heart and does not turn away, creating this moment where the only purpose is to awaken you. This is what they do, they see us, truly so, and they love us anyway. It is a most powerful kind of love because it comes from a place where nothing is expected in return. My friend used to say to me ‘it only takes a moment to be loved your whole life through’, he loved Father John Powell, and he is right. He loved me right through, and then some.