1. The Brightest Green Star in the Sky
Now it’s been made public on twitter and in the media, I can share that on Monday, my beautiful friend, Julie, lost her treasured, sensitive and funny big boy, Daniel. He was only 25! Sadly, Daniel was knocked over crossing a road in the early hours of Sunday morning. Early on Monday morning, I received the devastating text from Julie to say they were waiting for brain stem tests and that she had already spoken to transplant donor co-ordinators. Daniel had shared his wishes to become an organ donor. Not surprising as his little sister, Lottie, who is now three years old, had a liver transplant shortly after her birth.
Julie is one of those really special people in my life, one of those people you feel so strongly connected with. I am heart broken for her. My week has been so so surreal and I’ve been in floods of tears for my friend. I never got to meet Daniel as he has left home now, ironically, closer to me in London and I was going to take him for a coffee or some food at some point in time. Sadly that never arrived. It is just incomprehensible that a mother can have two children, one of whom received the life saving gift of organ donation and the other gives the same to six people three years later. As I said in Monday, there are just no words and this was why I couldn’t just come on here and chit chat about what was going on in our lives. Nothing else was going on in our lives in Monday. It just felt like we were going through the motions of a day in between receiving texts from Julie and feeling totally helpless in my attempts at comforting her.
Wills, his sisters and I met Julie and Lottie when were on holiday in Devon. Our friendship came about because of a t-shirt!
Julie, husband Chris and Lottie are involved in an organ donor awareness campaign called I Live I Give, central to which is sending out T-shirts to wear and spread the news about organ donation. We were on a fantastic day out to Cockington, near their home, with the awesome Torbay Holiday Helper’s Network and Wills was wearing his t-shirt. We had had an exciting morning with the blacksmith, glass blower, horse and cart, cream tea, ice-creams (this was Summer 2013, before our big set back this year and Wills was eating). I had popped into a craft shop and Wills decided to sit outside on a bench with his sister Hope and, who should walk past and spot the t-shirt?! I had heard about Lottie as they are under our team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and I had seen Julie on the facebook group. We’d never met though. It’s a cliche but we really did get on like a house on fire and met up later to watch the Red Arrows over Torquay and drink wine while the children played. Ever since then, we’ve stayed in touch and have shared some big moments on the phone and in person. Lottie had a clinic appointment while we were in at the start of the year and popped in to see us. Wills adores her. So, I really felt their pain and still do!
Of course, when you are on the transplant list and a friend tells you their son is about to donate your mind whirs. When I told Wills, he was really upset for them but immediately asked if Daniel would have that specific antibody match he needs. With the way we met and how our lives had collided it would not have surprised me in the slightest if our story was about to continue in this way. It would have been lovely to have such a wonderful, quirky and charming boy as part of Wills as Wills is so very much the same in many ways. But I didn’t want our life saving gift to come from such a tragedy for such a fantastic friend and I wanted to be able to comfort her and be there for her rather than worrying about William’s first scary and uncertain hours and days. I spent most of Monday in tears every time Julie texted me or I saw a new photo on Facebook and also with my stomach in knots wondering if the phone would ring. When you are on the transplant waiting list, it is very rare that you know that right now, at this moment, an amazing donor is giving his gifts, the co-ordinators are looking at the lists to see who they are for and someone is about to get a call…and could it be you? That with the agony I was feeling for such a good friend. It was the strangest of days. Also seeing first hand the donor’s side of the story. You can imagine but it isn’t the same as experiencing a close friend going through it.
Daniel and Wills don’t share the same blood group. I was able, am able, to continue to try and help Julie pick up the pieces and keep breathing without being whisked into our own panics. William’s time will come another day. Meanwhile, six people are recovering from receiving Daniel’s precious gift of life and I know Julie and the family are finding some comfort in that. I know they are so proud of him. I am too.
Julie and Chris set up Bright Green Stars to raise awareness of organ donation. On Saturday, just hours before Daniel’s accident, they were busy preparing for a really special Christmas campaign. Wills and I are involved and Julie and I have been in conversation pretty much every day for the last few weeks. It is just so so tragic and unfair that this has happened while they are in the middle of doing so much for organ donation. It’s discombobulating! One day, I hope they can see a glimmer of a reason. One thing is for certain, Daniel is among the biggest and brightest green star of them all. Shine on Dan and beam that light on your family and all those who live on because of your final act on earth.
3. A mantra from my guru
So, yesterday I got to meet Amma, the hugging saint, the guru who appeared to me when I put out a call for one to guide me through this journey in my life. It was an incredible day and I still don’t really feel ready to write about it. I haven’t had the chance yet today to just sit, think, meditate and process everything. It was just the most amazing experience to watch everything that was going on and then to step into it. I heard the most awesome music, and through my new hearing aids on the live music setting for the first time. I will share some of this music with you in the coming days. I read some of the most profound and life changing information I have ever read. I experienced meditation like I have never done before. I hugged a living saint, mahatma, guru who has received accolades from world leaders and the United Nations for her humanitarian work and endless love poured out all over the globe. Amma is amazing. She is more than human. If you watch her hug thousands of people, really hug them with love shining from her eyes, all day and all night for days on end, without showing any signs of flagging….rows and rows of people… It is just incredible. Everyone I spoke to felt something and the love shines from those close to her. I explained our situation and how I may need to leave and, every time I did, I was met with help; promises that someone will get me home if needs be; suggestions that I stay, leave all my worries behind and get strength from the meditations, blessings and darshan (the hugs) to take me though the journey.
There were thousands and thousands of people in Alexandra Palace, all mucking in volunteering and helping to make the event happen. People would walk round with black boards asking for three people to make samosas, ten people to wash up, twelve men to take boardings down and set up chairs…. There were stalls selling books, CDs, things hand made from Amma’s darshan chair covers and saris, incense, jewellery…. all in aid of her charitable work including hospitals, homes, schools, orphanages… all built from scratch and run by her team. It is mind blowing. I so want to be a part of this. There is so much to share and I will do it bit by bit or it will be long, boring and overwhelming.
I’ll start with yesterday evening and the Devi Bhava. This is a celebration of the Divine Mother, the feminine aspect of God and God’s unconditional love and compassion for all humanity. At the Devi Bhava, Amma gives her darshan as the Divine Mother, in the manner symbolised by the Hindu tradition but open for all traditions to interpret the ceremony and take meaning to fit them. The Devi Bhava was one of the most amazing life experiences for me.
The ceremony starts with Atma Puja, prayers for world peace and honour of the Divine Self that lives in us all. Amma gave a wonderful spiritual talk. It was engaging, entertaining and funny. I wrote as much as I could down so I can go over it again slowly as there was so much guidance for life in it. Then there as a guided meditation and chanting the names of the Divine Mother in Sanskrit. This was moving and felt powerful. Amma blessed water and it was passed to us all. Then, Amma went into a tent behind and came out in the mood of the Divine Mother for darshan.
I had received darsan in the afternoon as a special privilege arranged by one of the Swamis for me as I was too late for a token and in case I had to rush off before the night. But, I couldn’t get a mantra from Amma as she only gives mantras at the Devi Bhava when she takes on the aspect of Divine Mother. I really wanted one at this point in my life, I felt I needed it and it was right for me. I spoke to one of her UK followers about it and he explained that asking for a mantra gives Amma permission to open a spiritual connection with you. By asking for a mantra you are, in effect, inviting Amma to be your guru. If she gives you one, and she usually does, then she has accepted that invitation. Most gurus expect years of study before they will do this but Amma’s philosophy and aims are to accept everyone into her arms and to give mantras to most who ask for them. The mantra is based on your idea of the deity and so will fit your understanding and religious background. Amma does not convert, she stresses her religion is love. The teachings and practises she suggests will enhance any religious faith.
In my afternoon darsan I had taken photos of my children and a friend and her family and has asked Amma for her blessing on them. The evening was all about my spiritual journey and I tried as best is possible for me to clear my mind of William and the transplant and everything worrying me and focus on this. I had a very different experience than the afternoon. Despite the huge hall and having my hearing aids in, I could hardly hear anything other than Amma and the bhajans her monks were sining and praying. I received my darsan and felt a real connection this time. I asked Amma for a mantra and she said yes. I was then taken off for some teaching about mantras and to think about the word I most associate with my understanding of God. I wrote that on a paper and was taken back on stage to queue for the mantra. When it was my turn, I was sat on a chair next to Amma. I stayed a short while and then she lent across from her darsan and whispered my mantra in my ear. After that, a swami gave it to me on a piece of paper in sanskrit and made sure I could pronounce it. He explained the meaning and more. I was then taken down to sit with a wonderful, gentle lady, one of Amma’s UK followers with a small group of people who had received a mantra. This lady explained more about it and taught us a meditation we should do daily based on our mantra. She also explained that we should never show it to anyone or chant where it can be overheard. It is for our heart only and our connection with our guru and the main aspect of God or Divine Being we have chosen to ask her to help us seek, understand and reflect in our own lives. It all felt very deep and very special indeed.
So, I now have a guru. What I read in Eat Pray Love came about. I asked for one and she found me and I have her as a guide for the next part in my spiritual journey. It’s all exciting and perhaps a little overwhelming. I also made new friends yesterday and I can’t wait to see them again and share this journey.
(NB I don't own any of the images of Amma. These are off the web as unofficial photography is not permitted during darshan)
3. A quote to finish
This was a long old entry but I think you can see the kind of week it’s been. I need an empty day to really put it all together I think. I’ll leave you with one of Amma’s quotes that sums up everything I’ve written today I think;
“Behind all great and unforgettable events is the heart. Love and a selfless attitude underlie all truly great deeds” (Amma)
If you are not on the organ donor register, please do click here for more information and to sign up.