She'll Be Right Mate
Yesterday the world became slightly less shiny. A very special friend of mine died and the world is poorer for it. Almost stereo typically Australian, Nichole was one of those rare finds who, on your first meeting, you feel you’ve known for years. She was a person of great attraction for many people and truly someone who let her little light shine. She was a fabulously earthy Christian and though she always lent on God and spoke with gratitude and great frequency about her faith in him and the grace of his redemption, I’m not going to pretend she was never vocal about her anger in response to the extremely trying set of circumstances she endured for several years before her death. She had to ride the cancer roller coaster for 19 years and although she totally trusted the safety bar, it didn’t stop her screaming and wanting to get off. I can only assume she felt the same sense of leg shaking elation and joy on reaching the end of that journey.
I got to spend a few hours with her in her final days. She was sedated and not really responsive but she did turn and hold my hand a lot, once even slapping me lovingly in the face as she reached out. The last words I heard her say were “Trust God”.
And as we sat together there was a feeling of gathering in the room, it was just Nichole and I but I but there was a palpable sense of loving visitors silently filing into the room and waiting, fuzzy shadows surrounding a gradually tiring candle. It was the atmosphere of the parents waiting outside school on the last day of summer term, of the participants in a surprise party as they wait for their guest to arrive, or to put it more simply – like being between two magnets as they are drawn together. It was an amazing experience and I could feel God hovering as he did over the water at the dawn of time. I’ve never been so aware of his presence.
One of Nichole's final projects was to make it back home to Australia. We talked often about the desire to go home. It’s such a strong instinct to return to the place where we began life and we talked about how completely understandable the last journey of the salmon is, to get back to the start – regardless of what that may stand in your way. We talked about the slight feeling of let down as you step off the plane when you’ve landed at “home”. The smell of the airport (for her that was one of sweaty feet and melting plastic, for me a smell of cigarettes and stale beer) dull the bright moment of stepping onto your native soil. And then the surprise of finding that the trip you’ve been longing for, the homesickness you expected to dissipate on arrival, is still there. And so you travel further, back to your home village perhaps or the places you roamed as a child. Your heart lifts and your soul finds a deep peace, for a few days. And then the “I want to go home” feeling returns. So you head to your mum, dad, sisters, brothers, old friends – surely that is where you’ll feel finally at home. And you do. For a while. We decided that what we really wanted was to go beyond our beginning, further than the knitting together of our bodies to return to the living water like mercury melts into itself. A process as natural and unstoppably freeing as the first second on a waterslide or the push off from the side of a pool into invitingly enveloping water.
Gone From My Sight
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone."
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"
And that is dying...
Written by Henry Van Dyke
Thank you God for the gift of Nichole and her family, and for the sure hope of an extra pair of arms reaching out at when The Gathering comes and it’s time for us to set sail and follow her. To summarise - "She'll be right mate".