Twice in my life I have been delivered – in person – powerful and timely messages from complete strangers. The first was the day of my father’s funeral, and the second was last Wednesday night. On both occasions, the message has been exactly what I needed and provided answers or hope to a major crisis of existence. Were these people arranged and delivered by someone or something? I don’t know, of course, but both impacted me profoundly.
My father took his own life when I was 16, in 1998. He was until then my hero, a big, strong man who I wanted to be like. Dad was just 19 when I was born, and only 35 when he died. I turn 35 myself in December and that will be weird for me, but it’s a milestone I measure myself by and will see my passing of it as a success. I’ll have survived longer than him, despite sharing many of the same challenges he faced.
So at 16 and the eldest of four boys, I felt an incredible weight fall on my shoulders when my father died. It was up to me to be the example for my younger brothers of how to live a good life. It was up to me to represent my father in the wider family and world. Or so I thought, right up until a few years ago.
On the day of Dad’s funeral I was torn in a million directions. I wanted, as an adolescent already confused about life and the world, to simply fall into a crevasse of my own grief and despair. But I had my mother to try and be strong for (they’d divorced five years earlier, but were the loves of each other’s lives). I had my brothers to lead. And I had my extended family and community to show I was up to the task. But I had no idea of how I would do any of this. Nor that I didn’t have to be that for everyone.
I did a reading in the funeral and nearly lost my composure about halfway through. But I then ‘turned off’ what I was feeling and banished my emotions. I looked up at the church full of people, and simply read on as emotionlessly as I could. Perhaps that was how I would survive? By suppressing and refusing to acknowledge my own feelings and emotions? I know now that wasn’t healthy or sustainable, but for the next 30 minutes, it was my solution. It was then the first messenger placed themselves in my path.
As we were walking toward the priest’s vestibule at the end of the service, I was riven with sadness and fear. I couldn’t see a world where I might be happy again and I desperately wanted my big hulk of a father to hug me tight and tell me everything would be ok. But he couldn’t, and he never would again.
At that moment, a stranger moved into my path and looked at me with eyes that said, ‘I know you and I feel everything you feel’. He wasn’t anyone I knew and when describing him later, no one could think of who he might be. This messenger said to me, ‘Keep your chin up. That’s from Ade!’
And he was swallowed by the church and people and I’ve never seen him again.
My father Adrian was called Ade by everyone who knew him. And whenever I was upset, or we both were as our school holiday visits to his house came to an end, he would tell me to keep my chin up. That was our phrase. And this messenger had said it to me, referencing my dad’s name, appearing and disappearing without a trace.
I think of that moment sometimes when I feel alone, despondent, and frail. It’s the little nudge I occasionally need. And I’ve said those words to friends when they’ve been down and out and shared the story with them. It usually helps us both and we move ahead a little more hopefully.
This Wednesday just past, the second messenger placed themselves in my path and shared a powerful message with me. And as with the first, the message, timing and circumstances were curiously perfect.
I was in a pub to do a 10-minute stand-up comedy spot at an open mic night. It’s something I’ve been doing since the beginning of the year and I’m loving all of it – the challenge, learning, and audience interaction. There’s probably something to be said about needing a crowd to adore me, but I’ll leave that to the professional analysts.
My performance went well and as the night ended, I was about to leave. At that point a stranger called out, “Were you the comedian tonight?” I responded yes, and asked if they’d seen me. They had only arrived 10-15 minutes earlier and had missed me. They seemed friendly so I sat on a bar stool next to them for a quick chat.
In the next ten minutes, this stranger told me, unprompted, they had separated from their wife a few years earlier, had three kids together, and were ok: whilst married they’d stopped following their dream of being a sound engineer for touring bands, and instead moved into IT for a regular income. Now though, they were again working as a sound engineer and audio technician, loving life and had a stronger relationship with their kids than ever. Huh?! Aside from the dream job itself, they could have been describing me a little in the future! I’d moved out of the family home, had three kids and a notion to look at my career to see if it was the path I wanted to be on.
This messenger had appeared unexpectedly, no-one else talked to them, they’d outlined a scenario eerily matching my own but a few years hence, and endorsed its’ importance to them being happy. I left shortly after and sat in the car for a good fifteen minutes, just amazed at this message and what I could take from it.
Time will tell if messenger two was offering a vision of my future happiness, but hearing and seeing someone happy with a new life similar to my own was empowering and motivating.
There is probably a bucketload of coincidence involved in these likely-random incidents. But part of me thinks it’s eerie and special enough to be something more powerful.
Shine on, you beautiful diamonds xx