Life works its own miracles. All we have to do is to be open to them. Of course, this is easier said than done. And often miracles can be born out of the double hell of disappointment and suffering. What apparently is a great cross can be transformed into a miracle if only we have the faith and perseverance to really “see” with the heart or the soul and not with the eye which deals only with surface reality! I’m 48 and am only still learning to be open and accepting. I find it always rewarding to return to Walt Whitman’s famous poem simply called “Miracles” which we learnt at school. Whitman argues for a broader and deeper understanding of miracle insofar as all we can experience by our five senses are the real miracles. How true he is! How much we take for granted!
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with anyone I love,
Or sleep in the bed at night with anyone I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves --the ships with the men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
(Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass)
Today I had an e-mail from a past pupil whose brother died tragically from a brain haemorrhage about two years ago. He informed me that he had been diagnosed with depression within the last year. Needless to say, I welcomed him to the club and recommended the marvellous Aware website, q.v., AWARE Also his brother had suffered from depression and was dealing with it very well when a burst blood vessel tragically struck him down. The boy who died was called Philip McManus and his poems can be viewed here: (Unfortunately, this site is no longer on-line). Philip was a brilliant poet who died way before his time aged about 21. He had written literally hundreds of poems and I had the privilege of reading many, though not all of them. Now his older brother, Lenny has taken up writing poetry and enclosed one he had written for Pip. Marvellous I say. Miraculous I say. Honour the soul, honour the spirit and she will work wonders, nay miracles. Take a bow, Lenny. Take a posthumous bow, Philip and Walt. You are (or were) all wonderful beings who share in the miracle that life is. Even if two of you named here are dead, you both live on through the miracle of soul. It’s a strange thing that the poems by Pip, which can be accessed at the above link, all seem to be about death and deal with it very imaginatively indeed. In a way, now I dedicate these few words to Pip’s memory and to Lenny’s journey inward and downward and outward and upward. That’s it, the soul or spirit outstretches all metaphors.
I will finish this post with a lovely story. Philip was on a life support machine before it was eventually switched off. I was at home sometime in early June 2004 when Lenny rang me through the school secretary to inform me that his mum wanted me to come to the hospital to bid her son goodbye. I was deeply touched by this request and duly went and sat with her for about half an hour on the other side of her son’s deathbed. I placed my hand for some moments on his still warm entwined hands (the life support machine was still on and would be turned off early the following day). I wept. His poor mother had wept so much she had no tears left at this stage. I will never forget this precious memory. May you rest in peace, Pip. You are an angelic spirit in our memories! You were a miracle of life and you still work your miracles in your words and in our memories.
The picture I enclose at the beginning of this post is one I took recently of the sunset at Clontarf, Dublin, 3.