In Memory of John

Three years ago tonight my friend John O’Donohue crossed the threshold that he always considered helping others to travel  one of the greatest privileges of ministry.  He died in his sleep, his beloved at his side, at 52 years old, three weeks after I had last spoken to him.  His extraordinary book ‘To Bless the Space Between Us’ was near publication, and when it surfaced a couple of months later the opening chapter on thresholds and the inevitability of change made a different kind of sense than I imagine he intended when writing.

Those who knew and loved him were bereft; the most astonishing funeral and memorial gatherings ensued in such rapid succession, and went so deep that it seemed to be several months before we ran out of organised events to attend to remember the poet, priest, mystic, artist, humorist, and friend; a man so large in spirit that thousands of people were changed by his death.  It was a privilege to know him, and to be known by him.  I hear his voice on my i-pod all the time – I’m grateful that there were so many recordings made of his work; and I hear his voice in my inner life, calling me to live from my best self.

This year begins with remembering John on this third anniversary; and with reflecting on my own life, amidst wonder and challenge.  I, too, would ‘love to live as the river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding’.  I, too, wish to be a blessing to others.  I, too, am frail and flawed and broken; and frequently fail to give to others what I want to receive myself.  John would, I imagine, say to me what he often said, quoting his mighty friend Lelia Doolan, that in times of confusion and fear, you should ‘steady yourself’, and let the light shine through the cracks, even – perhaps especially – those you have created yourself.

If we are to honor John’s memory, we might want to devote this year to one of his other sharpest and most elegant ideas: that the first friendship we must cultivate is the one we have with ourselves.  May 2011 be the year in which you become your own best friend.

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3 responses to “In Memory of John

  1. “… let the light shine through the cracks, even – perhaps especially – those you have created yourself.” so important, so needed and so deeply true. Thank you for the reminder Gareth.

  2. Brook Hanemann

    I am missing him today…even though I know he is nearer now than he was when he was bodily here. Love to you and yours, Gareth.

  3. I just finished a wondrous weekend with David Whyte and as I reflect today I went over to John O’s site to pay homage. David and John, together, have had a tremendous influence on my life in the past year. I too listen to John everyday on my various Apple products and I get a sense at times that he is with me – despite never knowing him.

    Thanks for posting this in his memory and sharing your experience with him here and on his site. Your shared experience with John helps to me know him a little better in my imagination and thus provides more depth to my experience with his work.

    Thank you!

    Kipper