Monday, 21 July 2014

On the Road

I got off the bus from Dublin last Thursday night, overjoyed to be back in Donegal.

An elderly man got off the bus after me and we crossed the road together. He was clutching a plastic bag and struggling to walk. 

The idea popped into my mind to offer him a lift home but I dismissed it with the thought, 'he probably has a lift arranged'. I was tired and crumpled and just wanted to see my dogs faces, but first of all to see if my car was still in the carpark after four days.

Thankfully the car was there and, as I loaded my case, the boy-racer in the next car nodded hello. The vulnerability and recognition of this young guy made me realise I had to go back and pick up the old man.

He was delighted to be offered a lift. When he told me the destination I gulped and said 'no problem'. It wasn't that far away in the grand scheme of things.

As soon as we started talking I knew this was a special meeting. This man from Northern Ireland, probably in his nineties, was currently on a mindfulness course and reading a book on the topic. It also transpired that he was a priest and when I told him I was holding mindfulness retreats he expressed delight at the idea that he 'could be sitting at my feet learning'. 

He so reminded me of my late great-uncle, who was also a priest and a man who possessed an innocence, openness and humility that taught me the possibility of grace in every human being.

I began telling the old man about the gratitude I felt for my great-uncle, the only person in my family I trusted growing up. He asked his name and it turned out that he knew him! They were at seminary together and enjoyed many a 'shenanigan'. They had been good friends over the years but lost touch along the way.
I shared how, at our last meeting, even though deep in alzheimers, he had the clarity to say 'You know Aoife, there is meditation in your own tradition.' He knew I had been spending a lot of time on retreat in Buddhist monasteries.

It felt like he was just making sure I wouldn't lose something valuable. I held that thought as I continued my retreats and started teaching.

It seemed fitting that many years later I was again connecting with an old priest and we were both practising this thing now called mindfulness. We were travelling in the same direction.

When I got home it was dark but I could see the garden was in full bloom. Waiting for my senses in the morning would be sweet pea, calendula, corncockle, chamomile, raspberries, peas and gooseberries. The dogs were beside themselves with joy and I could feel great-uncle smiling down on me.

1 comment:

  1. Aoife a lovely story, heartwarming and beautifully written; your trust and kindness led you to a meeting that was clearly meaningful and meant.