For a Friend on the Arrival of Illness

For a Friend on the Arrival of Illness by John O'Donohue


Now is the time of dark invitation Beyond a frontier you did not expect; Abruptly, your old life seems distant.


You barely noticed how each day opened

A path through fields never questioned, Yet expected, deep down, to hold treasure. Now your time on earth becomes full of threat; Before your eyes your future shrinks.


You lived absorbed in the day-to-day, So continuous with everything around you, That you could forget you were separate;


Now this dark companion has come between you. Distances have opened in your eyes. You feel that against your will A stranger has married your heart.


Nothing before has made you Feel so isolated and lost.


When the reverberations of shock subside in you, May grace come to restore you to balance. May it shape a new space in your heart To embrace this illness as a teacher Who has come to open your life to new worlds.


May you find yourself A courageous hospitality Toward what is difficult, Painful, and unknown.


May you learn to use this illness As a lantern to illuminate The new qualities that will emerge in you.


May the fragile harvesting of this slow light Help you to release whatever has become false in you. May you trust this light to clear a path Through all the fog of old unease and anxiety Until you feel arising within you a tranquility Profound enough to call the storm to stillness.


May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness: Ask it why it came. Why it chose your friendship. Where it wants to take you. What it wants you to know. What quality of space it wants to create in you. What you need to learn to become more fully yourself That your presence may shine in the world.


May you keep faith with your body, Learning to see it as a holy sanctuary Which can bring this night-wound gradually Toward the healing and freedom of dawn.


May you be granted the courage and vision To work through passivity and self-pity, To see the beauty you can harvest From the riches of this dark invitation.


May you learn to receive it graciously, And promise to learn swiftly That it may leave you newborn, Willing to dedicate your time to birth.



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