Adventures on the grail quest

‘The Grail Quest takes place in the Wasteland. You find the treasure of yourself and the power in those darkest, most harrowing moments,’ Elizabeth Gilbert, author

Grief comes for us is many guises. Lost people, lost jobs, lost loves, lost opportunities…

By the time we’ve got to our midlives, it would be an unusual human who hadn’t experienced grief.

Then there’s the experiences of grief that are not strictly ours, but push us into examining our own world. The friend grieving a miscarriage when we are childless, a colleague devastated by a parent’s loss when we’ve been grieving the parent we’ve never known most of our lives… it is human nature to consider ourselves in others’ experiences. It may be uncomfortable, but it is nothing to feel guilty about.

Sometimes we are in the front circle of grief, sometimes the gods. 

And so it is that I have recently found myself in a Facebook group for a journalist I met from time to time in a former job where my duties including running the organisation’s press office. We were Facebook friends and sometimes sparring partners – Jonathan was a tenacious news man who seldom took the stock ‘A spokesperson said…’ statement as an answer.  When I ran into him at a press event, bounding towards me – eyes shining, huge grin – my first thought was usually an expletive. Jonathan was too bloody bright. Admirable and annoying in equal measure; but that’s the memorable moments of life, isn’t it, oxymoron in action.

Jonathan was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago. He passed last Thursday.

In his last weeks, this Facebook group has been an extraordinary experience. A way for those of us who know him, and there seem to be hundreds of us, to pass on messages. A way for him to hear those messages, delivered by friends and family visiting him in hospital.

One of his friends who saw him in his final days here, reported back to us that Jonathan wanted us to know that, pretty much, all that mattered was love. That he felt ours and that we had his.

So while I usually keep my blogposts pretty factual, it seems the least I can do to honour his memory is pass on this simple but powerful message.

Certainly Jonathan has left a very empty space in the lives of those who knew him.

Love is the point. And to love we must lose. And it will feel like a Wasteland. But keep going because you’ll find strength you didn’t know you had, resources you can call on again and again, more power than you ever imagined might be available to you.

The author Elizabeth Gilbert lost the love of her life last year. Of Rayya’s passing, she recently said that she thought people who are very vivid in life are very vivid in death. Certainly Jonathan’s absence seems very loud just now. Like his sneezing. His journey here may have closed, but his grail quest was lived vividly.

Whether what you grieve was light or bright in the world, keep going.

Your grail is waiting for you. Your journey continues.

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