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love among strangers

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The other day, around mid-morning, four people emerged from a room where a man had died an hour earlier. I walked over to offer my condolences; not with those words but to bear witness, to be with them at bleeding hearttheir moment of loss. We embraced in turns, saying little. Simply holding each other, gently, looking into tear-filled eyes, conveying a silent understanding that You have lost someone you love; I too have lost; it’s part of our human condition to love and have to let go.

Trailing the group of three women was a tall man, the deceased’s brother, carrying a potted plant to take away. We had seen each other in the hallway during the last two days, but said little beyond nods and smiles. He looked stunned. I fell into step with him as the group moved towards the elevator. His eyes found mine through a stream of tears, a bear of a man. Without hesitation my left had found a place on his chest, my right on his back, embracing his heart space. Two bodies inches apart: two men in their sixties who barely knew each other, in a moment of intimacy. Your brother has died, I whispered, naming the cause of his distress. I love him, he sobbed, balancing the potted plant.

Love is absolutely vital to our human life, writes John O’Donohue. For love alone can awaken what is divine in you. In love, you grow and come home to your self. When you love and let your self be loved, you come home to the hearth of your own spirit. You are warm and sheltered. You are completely at one in the house of your own longing and belonging. … Love begins with paying attention to others, with an act of gracious self-forgetting. This is the condition in which we grow. 

source: O’Donohue, J. (1997). Anam cara: a book of Celtic wisdom. Harper Perennial, p. 7.

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