Excerpt from ‘Strangers and Sojourners,’ V

[Anne, after nearly 60 years, is aboard a boat back to England. She’s talking with an elderly gentleman enroute and they’re swapping stories about their lives.]

He asked: “Were you happy there? There in the mountains?”

She was taken aback. “I suppose it depends on what you mean by happiness. I’ve known moments of ecstasy. There were many, many joys. There were years of desolation and blindness. Years when I prayed to die. But life doesn’t let you do that, you know.”

“I know.”

“Life always asks us to forgive in the places where we’ve been most hurt.”

“Most abandoned?”

“That too. Just when you think it’s over, when there’s no hope, there’s some great surprise. There’s always more. And then you realize that we humans understand practically nothing about all this. All this we live in–as if it were ordinary.”

“Nothing is ordinary.”

“Yes,” she said, and fell silent.

“You were happy then?”

“Yes. I was happy. But not with the kind of happiness most people want. It went much, much deeper. I can’t describe it. It was the feeling that just grew and grew over the years, a current underneath everything, a feeling, a form, a hand that was on my life. A sort of fierce, fatherly love that demanded everything from me but hid itself from me. It had given everything. It wanted total trust in return.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. It’s strange.”

“Like always being alone, but not alone?”

“The feeling was abandonment. It was emptying. No strength. No power.”

“You seem to have survived in good condition, for all that,” he said.

“It made me stronger. I gave everything, you see.”

“When everything’s given, nothing is lacking.”

“But not in the way we want.”

“Right. Not in the way we want.”

“Not in the style to which we would like to grow accustomed.”

“Precisely, Madam.”

“Later, after the worst of it, you begin to understand that you’ve survived. You grow old and you find yourself able to take a walk with a stranger and sojourner and speak with him of the sea.”

~from Strangers and Sojourners, by Michael O’Brien, Part 3, Chapter 34

4 thoughts on “Excerpt from ‘Strangers and Sojourners,’ V

  1. I almost cried like a baby reading this… I’d love to catch up with you sometime soon, fellow EFL teacher!! 🙂

  2. Oh, Anita, I am enjoying these snippets of the book so!

    This post strikes a chord deep within me… Her description of happiness is… is… profound.

  3. Thanks, Anita, for sharing these with us. Truly He gives all and He asks all. He’s been opening my heart to hunger for more of the Real Life.

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