As we grow older we experience change in almost all areas of our lives. Many are relatively insignificant and most of us learn to roll with the flow. We call the additional lines on our faces laughter lines or the grey hairs amassing on our heads silver, (that’s assuming we are lucky and they have not simply abandoned ship!) I have even heard tell; that a keg is better than a six-pack!
Perhaps the one change that is hardest to adapt to is loss, particularly of a friend. Richard Bach, a man who, through his books, helped shaped my childhood mind, once wrote;
"Don't be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends."
I was thinking about loss as I sat in the cliff top tea garden at Icart eating a rum and raisin ice cream. In my mind’s eye I saw the faces of a number of friends whom I have lost over the years. The first being a friend at school who I can still see doing beautiful somersaults from the school diving board. Then there were the images of Service friends lost both in the UK and overseas. I realised that I really do believe that I will meet with them again and that whilst I really miss their camaraderie, I am able to look back on the times we shared with joy.
I then took to thinking about the loss of mobility I have suffered during the last three years. I realised that this dominates almost every waking moment of my life. At first the comparison between loss of life and the loss of mobility, made me feel extremely selfish. Here was I eating rum and raisin ice cream in a beautiful garden feeling self-pity when others had lost their lives, what sort of person was I?
After a short bout of self-flagellation I realised that the loss I feel most is the loss of freedom. Naturally this made me think of people like Nelson Mandela, John McCarthy and Chris Moon. Each of these men had faced loss of freedom and come through it seemingly stronger.
I remembered reading that while incarcerated on Robben Island prison Nelson Mandela was empowered by the message of self-mastery contained in the poem ""Invictus"" written by the English poet William Ernest Henley. The last two lines of this poem are;
“I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
John McCarthey wrote that during his captivity he benefitted from coming to terms with the fact that he had entered a world where the past didn’t exist. As a professional speaker he also identifies the importance of standing up to a foe and keeping the mind alert.
Chris Moon a friend of mine at Sandhurst, was kidnapped by the Khmer Rouge and later, in a separate incident in Mozambique, lost his right lower leg and right hand when he trod on a land mine. A motivational speaker now he stresses the importance of; not becoming a victim, maintaining the ability to reason, focusing on the positives and opportunities and perhaps most importantly not being beaten by the limits we put on ourselves.
The ice cream was now long gone, my way forward has been made clearer; summed up by wisdom of three incredible men. Don’t be a victim, don’t dwell on the past, I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul and look for and make the most of opportunities.
I then thought of my own poem ‘Where The Sea Meets The Clouds (Turmoil)’ which I wrote in 2003 and blogged only 2 weeks ago. The final line of which is;
“and beyond it, the horizon is clear, for those who wish to see it.”
I guess having taken the first step the challenge now is to put my foot on the second rung of the ladder.
My poem for today is about the loss of Otto, our Bernese Mountain dog, a close friend whom I look forward to meeting again.
There’s a hole at my feet,
It used to be filled by my friend
He’d lie there and wait ‘til I tried to step over,
Then stand and watch me contend.
There’s a hole at my feet where he should be.
There’s a hole at my elbow,
It used to be filled by his nose
He’d wait and he’d wait then just as I ate
He’d knock me and soil my clothes
There’s a hole at my elbow where he should be.
There’s a hole in my heart,
It used to be filled with his love
He’d lie down beside me just for a hug
And cover me up like some black furry rug
There’s a hole in my heart where he should be.
There’s a hole in my mind,
Which is filled with my friend
He lies there and waits ‘til I step over,
And then we’ll be whole and happy and free
And roam in the heavens just him and me.