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Well Becoming

a blog about being well, becoming well, staying well - and flourishing. Written by a professor and family doctor living between Liverpool, UK and Granada, Spain

A feather on your heart
Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Here is a message from my friend Mary. She has given me permission to post it. It speaks powerfully to my recent posts. The wonderful image of the feather on your heart will live with me for ever.


Hi Chris,


I hope you and all your family are really well and warm as the winter bites...


I finally got to reading your ‘Day of the Dead’ blog – not a big mystery why it took me a while to ‘go there’, given the loss of my mother in August and the energy one needs to cope and grieve.


Reading about the different celebrations and festivals surrounding the dead, I was very suddenly taken back to the room in my mother’s house where we brought her, after the hospital, after the undertakers, after choosing a coffin and jewellery and her favourite dark pink jacket to wear in farewell. And the astonishment I felt that she looked so like herself, lying there, with that fine delicate skin and those hands that so often held us safe, shaped our worlds, hands that told stories with abandon and sketched love, dismay, anger and longing on the air around us. Astonishment that, in that room in her house, it seemed there was no veil between the living and dead, and yet there was. Astonishment that someone so utterly vibrant could actually die. It’s changed me.


I feel I want to fight harder for a life lived well and vibrantly, because it doesn’t just land on you, you have to choose it and leave other things or people or stuff aside. And perhaps sometimes it does just land, like a feather on your heart. My mother Carmel had an extraordinary ability to take joy in the smallest thing and then she’d tell you all about it, so you got to share in her sense of joy in a world that can surprise, that can waft a feather straight to your heart. Her life was not easy but her spirit was indomitable. She taught me so much, far more than I ever understood or recognised.


On the Day of the Dead here in Ireland, I watched five of Tomas’ great nieces (all of one family) dress up respectively as Snow White, a leopard, a ghost, a ‘scary guy’ and a little red devil. They brimmed with the excitement of becoming something completely different, an unknown quantity, a mystery. The cold air clung to them as they pranced out into the dark and along the very quiet street of their small village, crossing over into a different realm. Maybe then I saw my mother, transformed into something entirely different, a mystery. Finally, they turned for home, rosy with excitement, coming in from the dark. When they hugged us (and can they hug!) they became known again, solid little bodies in our arms, familiar, warm, ours. So my mother. A mystery, but familiar, ours.


Thank you for the blog, and the stories that connect completely unknown people...



Like 0        Published at 8:13 AM   Comments (1)

Beside You
Thursday, November 15, 2012

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while you’ll know than I love the music of Van Morrison.  My favourite album of his is Astral Weeks, recorded in New York over two days in 1968 when he was just 23. 

For me the best song on that album – probably my top song ever – is the second track, Beside You.  


You can listen to it on


Here’s the bit that I love the most:

To never never never wonder why at all
To never never never wonder why it's gotta be
It has to be
And I'm beside you
Beside you

It’s the refrain, it weaves amongst the rest of the lyrics, simply supported by flute and acoustic guitar.

The meaning behind Morrison’s songs isn’t always easy to work out, and he is notoriously reluctant to explain himself. So we are left to make our own best interpretations of what he is singing about. 

I think Beside You is a celebration of the direct experience of unconditional love. It’s about loving being with someone just because you can. Because you’re there and they’re there, you’re together and it’s fine. No need for conversation or discussion, no questions asked, no demands made.  No trouble, no fret or worry. Being in this particular moment, with someone you care about, and knowing that this is entirely, totally sufficient.

Being together, in ‘the silence easy’.  

Which sets me thinking about my own Beside You moments.

I am fortunate to have so many people that I can be with, enjoyably, comfortably and without worry, that I am wonderfully spoilt for choice here.  

Here are three recent moments that spring to my mind:

·        On the couch in Mary’s house, with my most recent grand-daughter Florence snugglingly asleep on my left shoulder, watching my other four grandchildren playing on the floor and listening to Mary and Rachel discuss the imminent arrival of number six.


·        On a sun-lounger by the swimming pool in the Gulf Hotel in Bahrain, sipping mint and lemonade, reading Rose Tremain’s Merivel, the afternoon sun warming my skin, Sue dozing peacefully beside me.  


·        In a park in Canberra, pushing my brother Steve along the path in his wheelchair, watching a game of touch rugby, feeling in complete harmony as we share a joke about the game and realising that - whatever happens and whenever it happens – I will always remember this moment with joy.

Go well on your merry way. I hope you have a rich store of Beside You moments, and I wish you many more of them.



Like 0        Published at 2:35 PM   Comments (1)

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