I’d made it across to Budapest after wandering across Italy and then up through and across the mountains of Slovenia stopping here and there to swim a lake or a river. I’d not seen Orsi for a few weeks so we spent a couple of weeks there catching up being bathed in the kindness and generosity of the Hungarians, wandered the streets of Budapest, sipping and catching up on ourselves, worked at a friends place painting their new house 30 miles outside the city the tiny village of Pilish. Time away and time out is a good thing after all.Then reluctantly set off back out into Europe via who knows where, our destination UK, We stopped briefly to look out across the chalky waters of lake Balaton a place of pilgrimage for all sun loving Hungarians then sailed westwards full steam ahead across the great Carpathian basin coasting through great splashes of red orange poppy fields in the wilting end of May heat, the windscreen spattered with insects.We hardly noticed crossing into Slovenia where the flowers changed to yellow dandilions and there were now hills and a lot more churches placed precariously up there on their tops. That first night we pulled in at the beautiful sleepy town of Maribor with its Red slate roofs and ancient streets, peace and tranquility seemed gently woven into the air, we breathed it in and breathed it out, people there were easy happy and light. I really liked the Slovenians.We wandered gently through the old streets and sipped wine along the banks of the river Drava, Orsi threatening me with pain if I dared to swim it, I really should have done. We slept well that night up a side street cozy and perfectly placedNext day, we set off towards Italy. Everything in time everything in place, Pearl purred and forests grew up around us on the B roads along the foot hills of the alps a coffee here a stop there, then Ljubljanna caught us in a seemingly endless traffic jam, uncharacteristic of Slovenia.
Once past and back out on B roads we’d very nearly been killed, a boy racer overtaking on a bend came straight at us, I saw him before he saw me and I just managed to avoid him, it was a very close shave with carnage.
The mountains gathered up their power, growing higher and higher the further west we got. I looked up into them, noting the direction I’d driven a few weeks earlier. From down there it seemed remarkable that I’d actually done itThen as we reached the Italian border they breathed out and melted away. It was quite a thing to suddenly be at sea level again. Italy was busy buzzing and blazing bathed in beautiful warm sunshine. We felt blessed and happy to be alive as we descended down toward the glittering ocean snaking our way through the narrow streets towards Trieste but pulled away from the center parking a few miles out of town away from the grind on a shaded promenade right on the ocean frontPeople everywhere of all ages were laying on towels on the hard stone of the promenade, soaking up the rays, cozy easy, relaxed and beautiful, older folk played cards with poker faces around portable tables
We got a bus into the city that evening had a laugh in that beautiful place, got the last bus back and sat on the prom in amongst a younger crowd sipping vintage Walnut Palenka Chonyi the decorator had given us at Pilish
Later that night we’d tried to sleep but the van had been rocked with the shock waves of cars speeding by so I’d moved us only a few hundred yards to a place I’d spotted earlier but away from the main road tucked in on the end of a line of Italian RV’s where I knew parking had to be free.Woke late next day, in a noisy harbour. The ocean smelled so strong, local men were descaling fish, casually breaking crabs open with hollow crunches, smoking and talking like Italians do, which has always seems like an argument to me.
We worked out, swam in the ocean, laughed, ate sour dough bread rolls, strolled over the road and into a beautiful old retro café to get a wifi link and get GPS directions for the phone. A messenger message appeared from my Brother Peter, saying to call ‘now’ he needed to talk. I sensed an urgency, it’d said not to move till we’d spoken. I was puzzled.
Finally a clear line, “Mick” he said “It’s not good news, its not good, we’ve lost him…. Stephens gone”
It is strange to hear news like that. I almost laughed, I felt my face wouldn’t let me express, I suppose because it seemed laughable that Stephen my younger brother had gone, how could he have?
They’d found him at the bottom of the stairs their dog had been barking and a neighbor had looked through the letterbox. It seemed like it’d been heart failure or heart attack.A hundred thoughts ran around my head as I sat there looking at the tiles of the floor. Funny how at times like those, when it comes to those closest to us, we go over the finer points of what happened, i did, but it really doesn’t matter. He’d gone, that’s all. He was free, no more worries, it was over, it’s we who left behind who solder on.
Poor Julie his wife I thought, she’d been away on a holiday one of the only times she’d ever been away from him in 30 years and at that point she still didn’t know.
It seemed surreal sat there in the warm sun, the glittering ocean just across the road, me peaceful and clear minded fit, strong; happy. Orsi and I were silenced. It took the rest of the day for it to really sink in. We drove to a monastery high in the Italian mountains to a small town called Bobbio, not sure why, it just seemed right. It was a long drive through scorching Italian heat with what seemed a corridor or hundreds of miles of trucks and lorries from every place in Europe, I drove perfectly, I was steely.
As I drove I called him in my minds eye, I let my little brother rise in my mind. I heard him say
I said “What for?”
He’d said “For everything, I’m sorry”
His voice sounded deep and horse
Then he was gone.
I remembered he and I playing as little boys, people thought we were twins. But Stephen always did have a wilder side than I. Orsi and I talked of sensitivity and how we as people deal with our feelings, about the input and blows we receive from the world. I have my own to deal with and at times it’s not been pretty.
Stephen though behind the hard man had an ocean that he was never able to really sail across he was far to open to the nuances of the outside world and was never sure how to deal with it all and all that he felt, many countless times it was uncontrollable storms for him.
Stephen got into the football crowd, its where he said he found true comrades, its where he found himself, he became a part of something that was able to absorb the ocean that he experienced within himself and so was lifted and exhilarated and free in that environment. He talked highly of many of those he connected with there, Stephen was a warrior and by all accounts fearless, took the blows and gave them in equal measure. He enjoyed that, his stories are the stuff of legend and always made me cry laughing when I wasn’t rolling my eyes in disbelief at some of the things he got up to.
Stephen it seemed had an iron constitution, unexplainable luck and it has to be said the love and support of his wife Julie. She had been his rock, his tower and his companion. He made her laugh, he made her weep, but made her laugh again, she really was the one who supported him through some dark days, faltering now and again but then finding her feet again, truly if there is love in the world between people, against all the odds, they had it, and that will linger.That night in Bobbio I went for a drink and walked on my own for a while, I was suddenly very angry at him. He came from the same home as me was brought up with the same code as me, ate and drank the same food. But then we are of course all personalities aren’t we, we all come in with something different, each one of us, and it is with this that we react too and with our environment.
When all said and done, I will say I did know him, and I think he was always glad to see me, he was kind, loyal and had a strong moral code that is hard to explain when you know some of the choices he made. He smoked like a chimney, money didn’t really matter to him, if he had something you could have it. He had an incredible memory and its with that that he could have done something more with, he could have escaped with it, but I don’t think he wanted to. He really did make us all laugh. I’d been angry with him about certain things he’d done, but he was driven by things I cannot imagine and really do not wish to experience, that was his road and in the end his choice
Next day I’d calmed down and went to sit in the Cathedrale Duomo di Bobbio. I called to him in my minds eye, I was insistent. I knew he could hear me, as I know he can now, it is what I have come to understand in my years wandering, its something I have worked hard at, something I have come to know.
As I sat there in that ancient place looking at the nails driven into the feet of the Christ. I closed my eyes, I’m not sure how long it was, I was lost to my seeing as I call them.
I was looking at a body on a sandstone slab. It was laid out, there was gentle sunlight glowing into the sandstone room from 3 square windows cut into the stone above. It was so peaceful. My point of view was from the feet looking up stood by the right side. The body was emaciated and blackened, the skin was drawn, its joints boney and knarled, it looked shocking, I knew it was Stephen, I saw the suffering of that body. But around the head was a yellow white light. He suddenly sat up and reached out for me with his right hand, looking straight at me, I jumped and was back in the Cathedral. He had been resting and I had disturbed him, I instantly regretted my impatience, there is a time to assimilate, a time to rest and recuperate.
“Stephen… I’m so sorry” I said breathless, “I didn’t realize, I’m sorry, rest, rest. Come when you’re ready, in your own time, I’m sorry”
I opened my eyes, got up immediately and left the church rattled, trying to get the image out of my mind, but as the day went on I realized just what I’d seen and I calmed down. He was safe, he was resting, he would come, you don’t die.
I will tell you something I do know, he is resting now, he is absorbing all that he made of his life, all that he did to his body and all that went on in his mind and the toll that took on him. He; the mind, is at peace now and he is able to find understanding as to why his ocean was so easily disturbed and why he was unable to calm it. He is coming to understand and who else is to say what kind of a life it has been, only he knows and that is coming or by now has been, the ocean is becoming glassy calm one more, the light brighter, the road free of weeds, the signs clearly written.
I loved my brother Stephen, I still do.
Back in Blackpool we stayed with Julie I think it was 9 days at their house. We’d just gone to be there for her. Stephen had caused quite a few storms in amongst the family and now was no exception even in death, but it got sorted, the realization, the finality had sunk in, priorities and responsibilities dawned, it was stormy and quite bruising, but it was sorted.The service was packed, which stood testament to him as a person outside the immediate family, people there were genuinely fond of him, all the quiet kindnesses he had done in those later years of his life it seemed had registered.
We all have a role in a family, it’s what I call the family legend and it fell to me to write and read the goodbye. I have seen the tree, literally, its shade and all our combined experience under it, our family’s shade overlapping with other groups, its how knowledge is passed, is the best way I can explain it, I have seen it and so his life’s experience is somehow ours tooAll that week in Blackpool, I kept it together. I’d written the farewell address as a letter directly to him, I knew he’d be there, there would be no third person, there is no Stephen was from me, that doesn’t make sense at all, there are no ‘if’s’ about this for me, I would talk to him directly, a farewell, to unlock the room; that was my role. Funerals are for us to let feelings out, that is their purpose, there is nothing to fear from tears and hearts opening, strong feelings kept down, locked away inside only do us harm, Stephen I know would agree with that.
As I stepped up to talk, I felt something move in and around me, my knees almost went, it was quite a surprise that I could barely stand, never mind speak or see through the tears and read what I’d written, from where I was stood I saw the room suddenly became highly charged, emotion unleashed into the room, everybody, I think, felt it. That is how it is, he was there
I managed to get through it. I’d said too him I will be watching out for you, I am expecting to hear from you and as I sat back down on the pew shaking and blasted, I saw a hand of light appeared out of the air and come towards me, it touched my face, gently cupped my right cheek, I physically felt it and it calmed me. It was not imagined, I have over the years come to understand a certain quality about these things, I have worked towards them, committed and continuously, and in the following weeks what saw and felt there would bring me great peace.
As we’ve travelled the festivals this year there is a certain sequence of things that I do when preparing a person for a session either Healing of Hypnotherapy. I let the person feel their own energy, and demonstrate quite easily the person’s own mind and their ability to focus with it, something within the self, not the brain, something beyond or behind it. There has only been two occasions I can remember where people have not been able to feel something, both times they had been on drugs. Most people initially say “weird” I call it a human condition; it is something that just is and I explain “has always been and will always be” We are not taught these things, it’s considered spooky or unnatural, and it’s anything but.
A scientific principle or law states energy first matter second, correct? So from that the suggestion if you think about it is the energy within or around you came first, before the physical body, I always say it’s an evenings discussion, maybe for later. Another principle is you can destroy physical matter but not energy, the suggestion being if you think about it, the energy you feel will always be, and so, you will always be in some form or other. Your experience will be absorbed
It has become more and more obvious as we’ve chatted to people at festivals and places along this road that so many people have had similar experiences, something that they can’t explain, or that scared them, or is unfathomable, usually around the time of somebody close passing or dying.
There have been so many but some more recent recollections; a guy at The Rebellion Punk festival talking about the curtains in the hospital room by the window lifting when his father died, he brushed it aside as imagination, but, he said he knew it was his father leaving. Just the other day at the Clipper in Shaldon, the waitress telling me about the night her father died, she’d awoken to feel somebody sitting on the end the bed, she’d looked and could see the imprint at the end, it had scared her. A lady I’d done a session with last week in Teignmouth told me how she had felt her dead husband climb into bed curl up and spoon with her, she’d wondered what she had done to be haunted,
I’d said “Have you not thought, you have been loved, not haunted”
A penny had dropped.
There have been many many more over the years, the point is they had been physical experiences, people knew, but most brushed them aside and still demanded proof. Perhaps it’s because of the work that we have come to join the dots and realize a common thread through it all.
I did feel my Dad when I’d returned to the family home for his funeral. I did see him wave to me as he collected my Mum two years later the day after her death, I’d laughed and knew the truth as my Mum had been looking around, she looked so puzzled and it still makes me smile when I think of it nowYou may say ‘well I haven’t experienced that’ and I say if you want too, work on it, trust your self and what you feel, everybody to their own experience, this is simply mine.
To add to this small list of experiences a whilst we stayed in Blackpool that week, Julie his wife told me the day before she went on her holiday Stephen had had a dream that wasn’t a dream he’d said. He’d come downstairs and said
“My mums just been she telephoned me and said everything is going to be alright”
At the time they’d thought it was about a hospital appointment he’d been worried about, but in hindsight, quite a profound message.
So you see I was expecting to hear from Stephen, Orsi and I had driven south to Devon to a bakery job she’d spied in Teignmouth. We’d stepped out of Pearl that Sunday evening and one of the first things we’d come upon was a local spiritual group on the corner of Brunswick street, behind the post office funnily enough, which had an evening of clairvoyance the following evening.
As an aside, this is something that I value greatly about living in Great Britain, that these spiritual groups are just there continuing on, doing what they do, you can pop in or pass it by, you can take it or leave it, I have never seen it anywhere else so woven into the fabric of the culture as it is here in Britain only perhaps Tibet. It is a golden thread that runs through our land. I have mused many times that people wander the hillsides looking for the ancestors and the druids, and in fact, there they are, right there on the high street, that spirituality and that knowing transformed morfed into something that can be absorbed and accepted by this present culture, it comes from the land we live in
So we’d gone to the meeting the next evening and within a few minutes the lady had come to me
“The gentleman at the back, I have your brother here” she said “Can you take that”
I’d laughed looked at Orsi and said in a clear voice “Oh yeah, I can take that”
She went onto give very good evidence, of the time I had gone to the undertakers when I’d first got back to Blackpool. I’d sat in that room, feeling the energy there, it was faint as I’d been troubled, but knowing he was there, talking with him, I’d decided not to open the lid and had regretted it later. She’d gone into quite a few personal details about him and his life gave me a wonderful message, he was free and he was lighter.We left that night chuckling to ourselves “Stephen, thanks for coming” I’d said. “Keep on coming when you can, I’ll be listening”