March 15, 2021
A voice is sent
To calm our deepest fears
A hearty laugh
Will banish our tears
Words will wing
Our dreaming ever higher
A mind will set
Our imagining afire.
Reading this poem, I immediately found myself saying, “This is what Philip was for me.”
The poem was written and recited by John Quinn in memorial to his friend, the Irish poet, John O’Donohue. Quinn was one of many who gathered in January 2008 to celebrate the life and mourn the death of O’Donohue–poet, grand human being, and inspiration to many.
I hope Quinn won’t mind my borrowing his poem to mark the sixth anniversary of Philip’s death. In fact, I’m enjoying the image of the three ‘fellas’ (two as Irish as the day is long) sitting together in an Irish sort of Heaven (a pub), enjoying a glass of “the black stuff” (a Guinness) and engaging in ‘fierce’ (good, great, excellent) conversation.
As my envoi, Philip’s voice soothed my heart like warm honey in tea. His laugh tickled and delighted, while his words were a constant inspiration. His mind never stopped reaching, imagining, and drawing me forward. I doubt I’d ever have traveled as far or wide or deep (in the world or in myself) without the initial impetus of his longings and creative courage.
We are often called further into experience than we’d like to go, but it is this extra leap that lands us in the vibrant center of what it means to be alive (Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening).
This, too, Philip did for me. He ‘landed me in my vibrant center’ of meaning and aliveness.
On this sixth anniversary of his death, I turn to the photo I took from my Eastern facing windows the other evening—a magical but fleeting moment of splendor in the sky. The beauty filled my heart with gratitude and sweet sorrow. I still wonder where the spirit goes when it leaves its earthly body. Alongside sitting in a celestial pub having a crack with two Irish poets, I like imagining Philip gently nestled in a couch as light and soft as these clouds, softly chuckling over some good book. I imagine cuddling up with him to share his love and laughter, his pondering and dreaming.
I’ve learned much in these past six years—six years that have been long, short, and everything in-between; six years I still cannot believe I’ve lived through in the absence of Philip’s physical presence. Perhaps the most reassuring thing I’ve come to understand in these years is that he was, and perhaps, even more so now, has become, an integral part of me. The person I loved is a part of who I am and a big part of who I love in myself. I still live within the sanctuary of the life and the love we created together.
Of course, I’d give everything to hear his laugh or a song right here, coming from his person. I’d even give a lot to have one of our heated conversations in which, in frustration, he’d finally say, “Just listen again. You just don’t understand yet. When you understand, I know you’ll agree with me.” Oh, infuriating man.
But return in the body … no, that’s not how this story goes.
As so many before me who’ve struggled with the loss of the one they love, I carry on in the life I’ve been given to live. I find John O’Donohue has words for this:
There are journeys we have begun that have brought us great inner riches and refinement; but we had to travel through dark valleys of difficulty and suffering. Had we known at the beginning what the journey would demand of us, we might never have set out. Yet the rewards and gifts became vital to who we are…” (To Bless the Space Between Us).
On this day, I feel compelled to give thanks for the love Philip gave me, and to express gratefulness for his leading me to all that’s vital to who I am and who I am ever becoming. My love flies out (and in), always. And, particularly today, in special heart-aching, heart-warmed grace and gratitude.