Some time ago at this blog I sent a message to Rohan...
This home below.... which looks out on a beautiful garden... Rohan's father slowly, painstakingly worked on over years to take it from a small cottage to comfortable family home. Rohan's mother, a very dear friend, generated a home full of love and friendship over the years and when I left Melbourne in 2000 I was more than sad to say goodbye and missed my visits here... a place of great warmth, honesty and hospitality.
The garden grew in the two years following these photos so when last there it was just glorious and so memorable ... like the people who live in this home.
I know I have more recent photos than these which tell of the beauty of the garden when it had developed much further. Where have I stored them I wonder? So easy to lose photos and regret not taking enough!
Yet... many of the best images I have from this home and the people in it are in my minds eye... never recorded. They are images of mid-winter with all of us curled up on cushions in a room with the fire going and my friend peeling oranges to share with us all.
These are tiny momentary snapshots... staring into the fire... the smell of oranges being peeled... someone yelling at the TV as their footie team had done something to cheer over or lament... dinner at the table, bits of conversation, other times... letters arriving with tales of holiday camping trips, photos of special events, rowing teams, graduation, snaps in school uniforms...
...and in all those treasured memories, photos and letters there were the unsettling moments, sadnesses shared, stories told and then one time, news that Rohan was ill.
But not just the one-time kind of illness. Rohan went from athletic, high achieving, scholarly first born son and student... into the work place and too soon afterwards... to dealing with major illness.
One that was rare, didn't let go and has kept him fighting and making all kinds of life changes and adjustments with no time for complacency.
Rohan talks of not having taken to a spiritual view of the world earlier on... but in time the illness demanded tough reckoning and new doors to open. An Ashram became a critical point of departure ... on a visit there with his mother I experienced the quality of life and encounter with spirit that came to sustain Rohan over the years he has been dealing with an illness that has come and gone and returned too many times.
Life shifts immeasurably through this ... lots of things cease to matter ... as many of you know only too well. Two nights ago I wondered about writing this post. I wondered if it was too personal to open a window to Rohan and his story in a way I certainly didn't last time I sent a message through this blog to him. But I decided tonight I wished to share the short film that his friend recently made for an ABC 3 minute documentary competition.
I watched it on Friday evening...
dwelling with it to appreciate both the film as an artwork and representation of mindfulness on the part of the creator... and then again as Rohan presents himself in this piece... the young man Ive known since he was a boy and seen though many phases over years. I marvelled at his journey and the absolute presence of mind and grace he brings to us.
It is tremendously humbling to be reminded so calmly and clearly of what letting go is... at the end Rohan talks of not holding on to anything anymore and I am so touched by this because of knowing that to arrive at this for a person as active and driven to do all he could to heal and live as well as he has that this is such a powerful thing to be able to say.
His calm and his grace is, in my book, a very special expression of beauty. His honesty and commitment make me think a great deal and wonder at the distance we ordinarily live from quiet truths and essentials. I watched water drip into a bowl of water as he talked and thought how suffering teaches us to see and to feel if we can allow it to without closing down... to see even the smallest, most humble things... and the person who grows wise before his time is offering a very special message not to be taken for granted.
This film titled "Grace and Suffering" was made for an Australian ABC 3 minute documentary competition and is included in a series of short films which you can view here .
TEXT FROM VIDEO: Suffering and Grace is a personal exploration of a young man who's lived experience as an adult has been one of constant confrontation with survival and existence. Diagnosed with a aggressive and rare cancer of the knee when he was 20, Rohan Erm has drawn on his own intelligence, resilience and discipline to fight the disease but at this stage has not succeeded. Now, as the cancer has spread to his lungs and chest area, Rohan reflects on his life and meditates on mortality. This is a hauntingly honest portrait of a young man in uncomfortable yet universal human emotional territory.
Not sure I managed to say what was most on my mind in this post ... the work I believe a "true" artist must grapple with are the big questions... sometimes its the giving up some worldly things in order to situate oneself somewhere to gain some insight and wisdom.
Something larger and more potent is forged through rigorous effort, sacrifices made, sensitivities worked through to still oneself in order to distill something from this life is really an ultimate task for the artist...
and maybe what I see in Rohan is the same journey as the artist's journey only the tools are different and the form of the work looks different.
The film enobles this journey beautifully!
I hope in sharing this here you will appreciate my deep desire to celebrate with Rohan and his family the exceptional person he is...
with much affection,
nb: at 11am monday, may 13th, Rohan gave his last breath after developing pneumonia on friday, 10th. His family were by his side all through from friday till this afternoon, day & night, and his friends from the Ashram came also to his side on the weekend to chant and offer blessings. He is much loved.