Look into the deep blue pooling eyes of an old soul and you will see the eternal flickering light of God. Spend time with one who carries within a soul who has lived and breathed many times. You will sense a spirit unlike another. Tucked deep and wide is an essence steeped in knowledge which is expressed in their manner, in their being. It’s not showy or hung out like a neon sign. This knowledge is simply present. You can feel its radiance all around the aura of an old soul and you can't help but be pulled into the pool. Sometimes you can't put your finger on what it is that sets aside an individual like this. You simply know its special.
I met an old soul in my late teens, only briefly spending time with him because our personal transitions were taking us in different directions. But every time we met, our conversations took on an infinite feeling of possibilities and dreams. It felt magically real as though the space we were in was protected by a sheen of oneness, disconnected somehow from the rest of the world. Our own energy complimented one another like we were on the same plane and we didn't need to justify any statements or wishes shared. An unconditional, knowing acceptance of thought....that's how it felt.
As I went off to university, he remained home to work and to save his money to travel the world. He was a tenderhearted nomad. He was a true free spirit who always walked to his own tune. When everyone around him was taking the safe route, he was fulfilling a different kind of dream. One day, he bought a one way ticket west and began his journey on his own....fulfilling his purpose perhaps, or just inhaling new experiences to shape him. Island hopping , working in Australia, meeting people, hands on learning.....until he arrived in Calcutta, a world away from life in Canada.
My old soul friend spent his days and nights volunteering at Mother Theresa's Home for the Dying, holding the hands of dying human beings, listening to their stories and confessions, being there giving his love over to someone passing on.....to someone who didn't have anyone. 21 years old guided by confidence provided from old soul wisdom. He gave them himself. They gave him new understanding of life’s lessons which I believe he carried close to his heart, marking his choices, impacting his personal destiny in this life.
Throughout his trip, I received postcards. He had promised and he did. They were wonderfully inspiring and filled me with so many questions. I wanted to know the deeper stuff....how he felt, what he really did.....what impacted him the most....had his feelings on death changed? Softened? I wanted to hear all about it.....all the stuff that doesn't ever fit on a postcard. I wanted to learn the lessons he had acquired.
I never knew when he was going to return so I carried on with my own journey and decided to spend a summer in Victoria after I graduated. It was a necessary trip for me as I tried to find my own footing again after graduating and finding myself alone with a broken heart. I too began working with vulnerable people, learning my own integral life lessons while my old soul friend finally returned from his trip. With 25 cents in his pocket, he was dropped off at the highway exit of our hometown walked the few miles to his family's house and surprised them all. He took the summer to acclimatize and to plan his next steps, while I took to that summer to expand my own horizons and figure out my own gameplan.
Our paths missed crossing by one week, but this time, the postcards had turned into letters flying back and forth across the country….pages and pages of pouring, pages and pages of dreams, thoughts, yearnings……..with plans to finally meet up in person when I returned in the fall. When we met up again, the first thing I noticed a necklace he was wearing and asked him where it came from. It had been a gift from a man he sat with while the man was dying in India.
He shared a bit of the wisdom he had gleaned while he witnessed death flow through another human being. He spoke of the sadness he felt knowing that many died without anyone around them. He spoke of the humility he felt surrounded by so many who had so little possessions but were wealthy in spirit. He spoke of how moved he was by all of the people he had the honour to be present with when they took their last breath. I was in awe.
From there, we jumped into where we were at as individuals. His plans were immediate. Mine were extremely up in the air, tied in with another. And as much as there was an unspoken closeness between us, we were in different emotional places…..too far apart at that point to continue on a journey together. Regrettably, we parted with a heaviness of heart. I had chosen a different path.
I never saw him again after that fall when we were 21 years old, though from time to time I heard about him as our lives unfolded far away from one another in different parts of the country. We never communicated again. The long hand written letters never happened again. It seemed too painful somehow. What I do know, and would know this even if I hadn’t heard any of the details, my long ago old soul friend remained connected to community, to people, to family through smiling kindness, dignity and respect for others. His life work paralleled my own.
At times, I have wondered what would’ve happened had we been walking up the same hill…..if I had made different choices at that point in my life. But then so many amazing things would never have occurred…..it’s beyond my comprehension really to wonder this. Still…….
Today, however, I stop in that blanketing of wonder to send a prayer out to my old soul friend. I learned that he died last week on Earth Day. He always was a part of earth’s clay, always grounded and real. Earth Day seems prophetically right for him. Surrounded by his sons, his family……surrounded by the people whom he loved with all his heart. Their grief and emptiness is bottomless I am certain. I mourn for them.
Selfishly in my sadness, I wonder again …… but then I stop recognizing that old souls never vanish. They return again with the glimpse of the light of God to share their wisdom and to continue to learn new life lessons. Our paths are bound to cross somewhere beyond the flowing transition of possibility. It gives me comfort and it makes me smile. What a beautiful man he was….now shining down on all of us. I can feel him...can feel his eternal spirit. Can you?
Last night, I found my old soul friend in reading this paragraph which somehow found me....
"When the individual life flows towards death, it also flows through death. It travels like the music of the river. Sustained by its passion and belonging and within the sureness of its flowing, the river is alive. It has a future and urgency for new possibility. It has no fear of death and yet at the end of its flow, a river always seems to be dying into the huge embrace of the ocean. Yet there is no break between the end of the river and its flowing life. The song of its end continues to sing back up the river towards the first moments of its visible infant-flow. At death the music of the heart becomes one with the unheard eternal melody." John O'Donahue, Beauty, The Invisible Embrace.