A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness

My niece, Savayda, on a recent trip to Ireland, became a follower of Irish poet, John O’Donohue. On her Saturday morning visit, she brought me a hand-written copy of this verse.  Its wisdom bites with insight, and brought tears as it forced me to travel to dark places I had not yet dared.  It is from his book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness
by John O’Donohue

Now is the time of dark invitation
Beyond a frontier that you did not expect;
Abruptly, your old life seems distant.

You barely noticed how each day opened
A path through fields never questioned,
Yet expected, deep down, to hold treasure.
Now your time on earth becomes full of threat;
Before your eyes your future shrinks.

You lived absorbed in the day to day,
So continuous with everything around you,
That you could forget you were separate.

Now this dark companion has come between you,
Distances have opened in your eyes,
You feel that against your will
A stranger has married your heart.

Nothing before has made you
Feel so isolated and lost.

When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.

May you find in yourself
A courageous hospitality
Towards what is difficult,
Painful and unknown.

May you use this illness
As a lantern to illuminate
The new qualities that will emerge in you.

May your fragile harvesting of this slow light
Help you release whatever has become false in you.
May you trust this light to clear a path
Through all the fog of old unease and anxiety
Until you feel a rising within you a tranquility
Profound enough to call the storm to stillness.

May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness,
Ask it why it came. Why it chose your friendship.
Where it wants to take you. What it wants you to know.
What quality of space it wants to create in you.
What you need to learn to become more fully yourself
That your presence may shine in the world.

May you keep faith with your body,
Learning to see it as a holy sanctuary
Which can bring this night-wound gradually
Towards the healing and freedom of dawn.

May you be granted the courage and vision
To work through passivity and self-pity,
To see the beauty you can harvest
From the riches of this dark invitation.

May you learn to receive it graciously,
And promise to learn swiftly
That it may leave you newborn,
Willing to dedicate your time to birth.

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3 Thoughts on “A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness

  1. Ellen on June 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm said:

    Dear Richard,
    Sometimes words are worth a thousand pictures.

    Love, Ellen

  2. Janice Maclean on June 25, 2012 at 11:24 am said:

    I finally have found time to catch up on your hospital experience. Certainly not one you want to experience again anytime soon. There are really no words to express how I felt as I read about all that you have had to go through but we know we must stay strong and focus on the future and the end result of all this pain. Amazing though that you look so good in your pictures and you are still able to give us that beautiful big smile.
    Big hugs coming to you and Donna. I am in Bolton Ontario visiting my sister.
    Love Janice

    • Richard on June 25, 2012 at 11:35 am said:

      This hospital experience was very different from the previous. That’s all behind me now and I’m onward and upward.

      Have a lovely time with your sister in blistering Ontario.


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