! It was over. His life was again simple. Nothing to hold him
in life. Nothing to give his life for - no one to receive his
His mind went back to the time he first met her. When he dared
not hope for such a one as this to echo his love. She had. He
recalled the time he found her looking at his picture. The time
they had both booked the same restaurant for the same night
to surprise the other.
It had not
been an easy road. They had done much. When he met her she had
to run to keep up with him, in the end he was the one running.
all that he had been with his first wife. That too had ended.
It was never a good match, youthful folly some said. He still
didn't know. After that he had wandered the wilderness of short
term girlfriends for 6 years. Those were the angry years. Years
of shaking his fist at life. Blackmailing life. He still bore
the scars of those times. When he had found her he could not
believe he was being given a second chance. Now that too was
a closed chapter.
John Roberts, would you sign these forms please" - the
nurses smiled at him uncertainly, torn between respect for his
grief and wanting to get their jobs done quickly. He signed
the forms in silence and left the hospital.
… … I'm very sorry". The doctor had just told him that
they had done all they could. Mother and child were both in
another world. He had known that in his heart already. He had
felt their presence around him trying to break the news to him
first. He had not wanted to know though. But when the doctor
had told him directly, in the end he had held his gaze steady
and quietly said: "I know". After a surprised glance
the doctor left him alone, relieved that the man had taken it
could not know were the thoughts in his heart and the way his
spirit moved him. In the weeks that followed he was like a man
in a dream. His body did mechanically all that was required
but his spirit had fled to an arctic cold and frozen place.
It was only when the numbness of his spirit started to thaw
that he wondered what his next steps would be.
He could continue to teach History at the University and go
on as before, but that was not really something he could see
himself doing. His colleagues were being very considerate and
handled him with great care, which was a constant reminder of
his loss. It would wear off he knew that. He had tried the road
of anger and rebellion years ago, that was no longer an appealing
It had been
one lonely night when the pain was almost unbearable. All night
he had stared out of the window. He saw in front of him many
roads. Some he discarded easily. Then there was the road of
ending it all, following them. Though he knew he would not end
up in the same place, anger and pain made this way look dangerously
In perhaps the time of deepest agony a flower of memory came
back to him: As a child he had looked at his life and had wondered
what would happen to him. He wondered what he would do if the
worst came to the worst and he would not be able to bear it
any longer. What would he do then ? Way back in his boyhood
he saw clearly what he had said to himself then: He would consider
that his life had really ended, as though he had really died.
Then he was free. He would not try to build anything up again.
He would take training to help and heal people and then go to
wherever there was a need. Since his life was no longer his
own, and he had in effect died already he would not worry about
danger or risk. The more danger the better. There was nothing
to worry about. If he died in the course of his work that was
no worse than what would have happened earlier.
He did not know why as a boy he should have thought of this,
though he could see the romance and appeal in such a story.
He had thought a lot as a child.
It was not until that night, that in his pain and loneliness
his resolve earnestly embraced this old boyhood dream. He would
do this. He would not tell anyone. This was his new life.
It was not until he had lit a small candle and looked at his
plan from a distance that a tremor of doubt crossed his brow.
Yet he pledged himself to this new life, and to secrecy.
the outside there was not much that gave warning of the suddenness
of his decision. John gave notice at his work and left with
a minimum of fuss and attention one month later. He sold his
house and that was the last any of his old colleagues knew of
him. Even close friends were surprised. He had told them he
was going to travel for a few months and had flown out of town
late one night, seen off by only one long time friend.
visible from the outside, was that after leaving his home town,
John trained in a medical field in one the teaching hospitals
in a neighboring country. His fellow students, all younger than
himself liked him and marveled at his dedication and perseverance.
He was not the best student in the class, but worked hard. It
was not till much later, after hearing of his work in the wars
that this classmates realized what had really driven him.
to the war in Africa. He worked on the battelfieds. Many owed
their life to his care and his courage in going to find them,
wounded in unlikely places. Refugee camps, war zones, he was
there working quietly in the background. Yet still he was a
man closed off from the world. He would not permit anyone to
come too close to him. Though he was not foolhardy, he still
looked to death to release him from his pain. Death did not
yet want him.
It was not
until he was an old man that he would speak of his life. By
then he had acquired a smile behind the eyes that seemed irrepressible
and he would chuckle and speak about what he had done. "yes
even that decision was vanity and self-glory" he would
say " but it saved me from myself ! I would do it all again
if I had to !"
in his sleep at the age of 93.
written 17Feb01, Vientiane, Laos
15January01 German Embassy, Vientiane: watching the movie "Three
Colours Blue" - about a lady who lost her child and husband:
I remembered that thou said recently something about "…how
to raise success from failure…" I see now how the last
few years have been like a practicum, where I first have to
learn to do this myself before being able to teach anyone else.
The feeling of suddenly finding that the last 4 to 5 years which
seemed such a complete waste and a mistake were instead useful
and part of the real plan, that feeling, was very very good.
Suddenly it all made sense. The pain and the lost feeling of
the last few years was carried for someone else, for others,
to be able to help them in their pain and lostness, - because
how else can I reach someone it there is no understanding and
experience myself ? what does air mean to a fish ? Only a bird
can explain to a bird…. What seemed always a complete mistake
and error, suddenly was revealed as the very core of the path
I am on and the very heart of it and not one foot was a mistake.
is a legendary bird, that ingnites into flames and burns up.
from the ashes the phoenix rises again....
© 2003 heiko