Patrick died. He came into my life briefly, and left quickly, before I had a chance to get to know what made him uniquely himself. I met him in Abadiania, Brazil, when our paths happened to cross while staying at the same pousada, or guest house. I was in Brazil to get enlightened. Patrick was in Brazil to get well. I experienced truths I only thought I knew. Patrick died. But the question is – which one of us was healed?
People flock to Abadiania to spend time in the presence of John of God, looking for healing by many different definitions, sharing a common bond of hope. Many scrounge together their last remaining dollars, desperately hoping for a cure. Others make the long journey to seek the healing of wounds that cannot be seen, but which have formed scars just the same. Others don’t seek healing at all, but are drawn to this place simply to experience whatever is next meant to be. Still others wish to use this place of powerful pull to align themselves with their deeper knowing. And still others arrive in response to a call they cannot describe in words, and sometimes, can barely even hear.
But no matter what has initiated the call to respond, once they arrive, bonds easily form between strangers whose paths have crossed for a short period of time. There is an unspoken respect for each other’s stories, for you quickly discover that the reason you came has little to do with why you have arrived. And gradually, but surely, that which tends to separate us fades away, as that which we share becomes known.
Ands such was the case with Patrick. Just leaving his teens and learning how to become a man, Patrick arrived from halfway around the world with his mother and aunt, hoping to experience a remission in the growth of tumors that were outrunning his surgeon’s knife. And although Patrick arrived with a vivid red scar visible through his thin hair, he had a vibrancy to him that belied the state of his health.
I was impressed by Patrick’s curiosity. Rather than appearing fearful of the uncertainty of his diagnosis, he seemed curious about what would unfold and the lessons he had yet to learn. This young man made me feel ashamed about the deep fears I often bring to circumstances that are, in truth, rather tame, as compared to the alertness and grace he brought to a challenge he was told would most likely end shortly in death.
I heard him tell me about his condition, but somehow he didn’t seem sick. His eyes were too full of life. He voice was too calm, his demeanor too vibrant, his smile too quick. How could this almost man have such a strength around himself when I, the ordained minister, still have questions about God?
We talked about life. We talked about death. We talked about who we were as spiritual beings. We talked about illusion. We talked about choice. We talked about pain. We talked about why we are born. We talked about why we die. He believed I was teaching him. But I knew he was teaching me. We left Abadiania to return to our different worlds, and I was certain Patrick had achieved the healing he had come looking to find.
So when I received word a short while ago that Patrick had died, part of me couldn’t believe it. How could it be possible that this young person, so full of life and potential, was no longer free to walk, run, laugh, and love? How could one who had looked to be so full of life, now be lying lifeless in the ground? How could one who had some seeking answers not have been served? And if one of my brothers had failed to be served, than what did it mean for me? For I too, am full of life. I, too, am filled with curiosity. I, too, have a thirst to experience life fully and to embrace whatever comes my way. But if Patrick had all those things and still his time on earth was ended, then there’s no escaping the fact that it’s going to happen to me. It’s just a question of when.
But my horror, my sadness, my anger, and my fear led me on a journey of a different sort – a journey about the very nature of healing itself. Was Patrick healed? Was I? What does it mean to be healed? Does it mean the lessening of physical symptoms? Does it mean the easing of burdens? Does it mean being able to see life as a “daring adventure,” as Helen Keller once described? Or does it simply mean connecting with the unconditional love that is ultimately what we each yearn for, and seem to struggle so much to find.
I started to read. I started to write. I started to reflect, to contemplate, to ask more questions, and to pray. And little by little, I was reminded that life only has the beginnings, the middles, and the ends that we give it, and that healing means so much more.
I realized that true healing comes from the quiet way of being that flows from one’s true center. Healing is focused, authentic, indisputable, and accepting of any outcome. It looks beyond the body that is sick, and is not contaminated by fear of death. Healing contains no blame or guilt, and unfolds as effortlessly as we breathe, and as spontaneously as our hearts keep beat on their own. Healing does not exclude any therapeutic approaches, and may include allopathic treatment as naturally as it may cherish contemplation, meditation, or prayer. Healing is unconcerned with tragic outcomes, for it understands that one’s higher Self is immortal, eternal, and cannot die.
I came to realize that healing is not a passive event. That it requires us to draw on our inner resources, in order to find the strength to leave behind the beliefs, judgments, and behaviors that no longer serve us, so that we may see ourselves in new ways. It involves asking ourselves deep and intrusive questions. Questions such as
- What does healing mean to me?
- What are my expectations with regards to healing?
- What are my attachments to being healed? To not?
- How am I willing or able to contribute to my own healing?
- What am I willing to give up or change in order to heal?
- What is it that I desire at the deepest level of my soul?
And I learned that healing takes different forms. In the words of John of God translator Heather Cumming, “Sometimes the soul makes great strides but the body isn’t able to keep pace.” It is natural to wish for the quick reversal, the sudden recovery, the miraculous cure. But sometimes, the path just might be more twisted and longer than expected, and take us to a location different than we planned.
Was Patrick healed? Was I? Were any of the people whom I encountered while in Brazil? I’m not sure it’s a question I can answer. I think you would need to ask them.
I don’t know if Patrick experienced the healing he came to Abadiania to find. But I do know that the grace and curiosity and openness with which he faced his transition into an experience we can’t define has helped to heal me. And perhaps, ultimately, the true definition of our healing is the impact we have on those whose lives we touch.
Patrick came into my life briefly and left quickly. But the lessons he taught me will last for a very long time. And now, Patrick gets to teach you as well. And I would say that is a pretty powerful legacy for a young man who was just leaving his teens.
I can’t say with certainty what happens when we die. But I do know that we continue to live on in the hearts and minds of others, and thus we continue to grow strong. May each of you uncover your own understandings of healing, and then witness its miracle in the circumstances of your lives.