I was brought up in an actively Christian household and because of that I was forced to think about religion from an early age. There is something attractive about having faith. People with faith see signs everywhere, angels walk the earth, there is a reason for everything and there is always the potential for miracles.

I have a large romantic streak in me and as a youngster all this appealed to me but in the end my practical and analytical streak won out. I can’t abide the lack of sense and compassion, the hypocrisy and the lack of evolving thought that is involved in having religion. I have concluded that faith is not for me that the world is largely chaotic, with some happy coincidences.

But, then, occasionally, some small thing happens that gives one pause. Not an hour ago I saw a picture posted on FaceBook, just a picture of an unknown hillwalker in the Waterford Mountains. I noticed the date it was taken was the same day a friend of mine died.

I remember the day. The weather was clear and frosty. I remember waiting, alone but with so many others, to hear the news. That horrible waiting that so many of us are familiar with, knowing that someone is suffering, knowing they will leave, not wanting them to go but not wanting them to stay, in pain. The news came that evening and it was over.

I don’t revisit that time, not emotionally. If there is one thing that Ray showed anyone is how to live in the present but tonight I was horrified to find that, within seconds, this picture sucked me back to that day as if it was some sort of portal to the past. I was there again. Waiting. Powerless.

I took it as I take everything these days, good and bad. It is, I thought, something else that will pass, and I knew not to think about help or comfort. Comfort came though, and within minutes.

I don’t have any pictures of myself and Ray together and very few pictures from that time, something I have worked at not regretting, so I was stunned when, exactly 5 minutes after the picture of the hillwalker was posted, an old friend who never posts on FaceBook, tagged me in a photo alongside Ray. We are both smiling. Both happy.

I don’t know what it means. No, I know it means nothing. But I know it means everything too and I am grateful to whatever force, chaotic or no, that threw that picture up in front of me. And more prosaically, if less magically(or maybe not) I am grateful to Mark. Thanks Mark, old pal 🙂




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