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In Memoriam: John O'Donohue

Memorial Reflections by Friends of John O'Donohue & Miriam's Well

In Memory of John O'Donohue - A sharing

Dear Susan & Richard,

Thank you for making a space for people to share their reflections and memories of our beloved John O’Donohue. It is heartening to know how deeply he touched the lives of so many people.

I was especially moved by the beautiful reflection by David Whyte. I was reading it aloud to a friend, and when I read the line: “John was a love-letter to humanity from some address in the firmament we have yet to find and locate…” I burst into tears, and was able to fully feel my grief -- and to understand the great gift that John’s writing has been – for me and for so many of my friends.

I first discovered the tapes of Anam Cara when I was going through a dark night of the soul. I had been feeling very alone in my life path, having decided after seminary that I could not minister within the traditional forms. I was working in an agency for the developmentally disabled, feeling the huge, deadening weight of bureaucracy and the emptiness of the culture all around me – a culture so cut off from the deep sources of spiritual nurturance and from nature. John’s voice was like a warm and gentle wind coaxing me and drawing me out of the dark night, affirming that I was not alone in the universe -- that someone else experienced the inner world in the deep, rich ways I had known since childhood, yet had no mirror for in the external world. Anam Cara was my homecoming call, and in the year that followed, I found my own form of retreat and workshop ministry and called it “Anam Cara Center.” The circle of soul friends that Spirit gathered came to think of themselves as the “Anam Cara Community.”

When I finally had the great privilege of meeting John O’Donohue at a Miriam’s Well event, I asked him to dedicate my copy of Anam Cara to the Anam Cara Community, and he wrote these words – which I want to share today with the larger, worldwide Anam Cara Community – all of you in the circle of soul friends who have been blessed by John’s teaching and presence:

For Anam Cara Community --
May all the Light & Wisdom of your work
return to bless ye a thousand times.
John O’Donohue

As the light and wisdom of John’s work return to bless him a thousand times, so may we bless one another by bringing all that his teaching inspired to grow within us into glorious flower. May we each find our own ways to bring to form all that is coming to light in our clay shapes -- that which can come to this unique form in no other person - as John so often reminded us. May we let our light and wisdom go out into the world unimpeded and joyous.

Thank you, dear Soul Friend, for the love-letter of your life, and for your continued presence in our hearts.

and thank you to Miriam's Well for bringing John's presence to all of us - what a tremendous gift.

With love and gratitude,

Jeanne Marie Merkel
Mattituck, NY

Hi Susan,

We spoke last week about the May memorial for John. I had the privilege of being on retreat with John last May in Ireland. I would love to come to the May memorial and will talk to you soon about that.

I live in Seattle, Washington. I have been asked by the Providence Health System who knew and loved John to host a memorial service at my home. If you have any friends or clients that live in this area and are wanting to gather in John's memory, the gathering will be on January 26 at 3:00 p.m.

Any interested people could e-mail me at patriciajoyce@comcast.net or reach me at 206-325-5095.

With appreciation and gratitude,

Patti Joyce

Hello Susan,

Thank you so much for creating a tribute for John and sharing his audio on your webpage. I have followed John's work since 1993 when I met him at the International Transpersonal Association conference in Killarney, Ireland -- and later heard him speak in San Francisco the following year. What a beautiful, beautiful soul.

I was not able to make it to the events he shared through Miriam's Well, but have always enjoyed looking forward to the reports from his talks -- as well as hearing the quips and quotes that David Whyte would share about his dear friend, John.

Something I read in an on-line article about John really struck me as ringing true:

"John created a space with language, both spoken and written, that felt like the home you never knew you were missing, but now never wanted to leave."

I feel blessed to have known John's work in this lifetime and to feel "connected" (albeit through e-mail mostly) to the Miriam's Well community and the space you create to allow artists, such as John, to share their incredible wisdom.

Thank you for creating Miriam's Well and for taking the time to honor our dear friend.

With blessings,
Candace Faunce
Oceano, California

Such a sad shock. News that feels like it cannot, must not, be.

I hope he flew away easily and joyfully.

I can only thank him for his depth of love, courage and humanity.

He brought us all in to share his communion, a most blessed act, most instructive and most kind.

Thank you, John.

Dear Susan,

I’ve only been at Miriam’s Well once and it was to see/hear John. I had no idea he was sick and was shocked to hear from you that he had died. What a loss ..He had such a beautiful mind and wonderful sense of humor.. I am just devastated. I so wanted to attend last October but both work and finances made it impossible. If you have any cd’s, tapes, etc. of his for sale please let me know. I deeply appreciate your making his voice available to us once more. I will be with you in spirit as you mourn this great loss.

With love and promise of prayer,
Betty Bagen, GNSH

Blessings to you all gathered there.

My deepest thanks to you for providing the mp3 with John's voice and the magnificent "hattan Man" story. How I love this man. How I must remember what he taught me about death, about how very close, very thin, the line between the visible and now invisible really is. Thank you for whatever you are doing there in NY today to provide (as we all must who know and love John) safe passage through the transition of these days.

My love and gratitude is with you all.


Dr. Mattie M. Decker
Assistant Professor of Education
Morehead State University

I was shocked to hear the news about John O'Donohue and so deeply saddened that he has passed on...thank you for taking the time to share with us a snippet of his presentation..I just listened to it and was reminded of how wonderful his grand Irish brogue sounds. I am also thankful that I had an opportunity to hear him once at an Omega weekend. What a precious soul!

Many blessings to you, Kelly

Dear Susan,

Strangely enough tomorrow is the feast of the Epiphany when the wisemen found the child Jesus, often portrayed on cards this time of year with the caption "Wise men still seek him" - sweet to think that John has followed the starlight and arrived now at the feet of Jesus ("my main man" I recall him saying) to lay before Him all his many rich gifts. I copied the attached from the Irish Times just now - you might be able to print it up and add it to whatever you will use at your memorial.

Irene Moynihan

Dear Susan,

I was deeply saddened to learn of John's death...your words were so touching and such an appropriate remembrance for such a bright and gracious spirit. I wish I could join you this weekend but I am on the West Coast. I would really love to join in a memorial and celebration of his life and words....please include me on your mailing list. If there is anything I can do to help you and Richard organize, please let me know. I think there are many of us who have been touched by his presence that would wish to join with others in a weekend.

Sending you both my sympathies....I know what a dear friend he was to both of you. I am forever grateful to have been a part of that transforming weekend with all of you.

Warmest regards,
Judy Pearson

Oh no!!!!! I didn't know about John O'Donohue! I'm so sad. I have all his books and tapes. How sad. . . I will light a candle right now, and let it burn all the way down, and invite in my dreams of beauty and soul. I'm so sorry. .. . how sad, we will miss his lilting voice and friendship. . .

Erin Donahue

Dear Susan, I am grateful that you are sharing this information and including those of us who are so deeply touched by the loss of this exquisite individual. I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in one of your workshops with John; and though knowing better, I always assumed there would be more time and chances.

my blessings and care to you and reminder to us all John's cultivation of relationship with the invisibles and Hillman's words: "the great task of a life-sustaining culture is to keep the invisibles attached."

I tried to learn more and was unable to access the Dublin - Irish Times, where folks have apparently been sending in comments and condolences -

with sincere care, Peggy Short, D.Min.

Dear Susan & Richard

This is such shocking news about a man filled with such passion for life, love........yes beauty.............goodness and truth! I too am so very saddened. I would like to know how this could have happened.....was he ill.........to a man filled with all his courage, passion and grace. Yes this poem speaks to so much and certainly at this moment. He is in my thoughts and prayers.......his books by my bedside........and I will read a part in rememberance. He spoke truth. With his wit, charm, intelligence and heart he embodied his authentic self......................and made you laugh at all of the absurdities of life............. I have some very special memories..................created by you two at Miriam's Well.

May he rest in peace.....knowing he is a blessing to all of humanity.


Dear Susan,

Thank you so very much for sending the poem by John. It is such a perfect description of him, and allowed my tears to flow. I feel deep appreciation toward you and Richard for hosting John 's conferences in the past and giving Kevin and I and so many others an opportunity to spend time with him. If we were geographically close to you we would be there to participate in a heartbeat. Instead we will be there with you in spirit and in our hearts as we celebrate his life. It makes me happy that you are bringing people together and I respect you so much for that.

With love and gratitude,
Valerie Davis

Thank you for your beautiful tribute to John O'Donohue. He was a friend, spiritual mentor and guide in laughter and mischief for me since we first met in Ireland in 1995. One of the workshops I attended, led by John, in the U.S. was at a Miriam's Well weekend, near New Paltz, NY. In a workshop break, John spent an hour with me by the lake, talking, listening, and ending with a "blast of a blessing" -- and the next morning he led the group in a guided meditation to meet someone we loved who had died -- and these times were a turning point in my healing of grief for my husband (whom John had known & loved) who had died.

John was/is, as you so beautifully express here, a blessing in our lives -- a wise, beautiful soul, and an outrageously wonderful wit and mischief lover.

Barbara Knight Katz

"I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding."
John O'Donohue

Dear Richard and Susan!

I have been sitting here in the early morning quiet and reflecting and praying for the both of you and for all of John's friends and family. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to spend time with him. His gentle, jovial and kind spirit linger as I drive or sit or think. Several of the questions he asked us to consider I still mull over.

Richard - I really appreciate the phone call last night. I was very touched that you would call. John said that he was a priest, but John died a priest. He had the soul of one.

Susan, I vividly remember the closing blessing you embraced John with before we left in October. Thanks again. Peace and prayers and sympathy,

Jerry Simmons

Dear Susan,

Almost, but thankfully not, too late upon the adventure who was, who is, who will ever be John, I send my heart's presence and care to you and Richard and those closest to John through the years. But too--because astonishingly John's love and luminosity of heart, mind and spirit made it so in the brevity of a weekend--I unite my grief with yours because I too mourn the death of a brother and friend. I, and I expect Jerry Simmons, would come to celebrate a weekend. Weather and the fact that I shattered my left arm in an icy fall must, of course, be considerations. But please let me know. In our sorrow that Our Beloved John has died and in our joy that he is radiant in the glory of our God, I send my


Tom Dugan

Hello Susan

Here on the other end of the world the news of John’s passing greeted me when I opened my mail this morning and what sad news it is indeed. I have just finished reading Anam Cara for the third time and so feel really connected to John and the inspiration that he provided.

He spent a while with us here in SA in 2006 and that was so special to be able to know him more intimately.

There are many devastated friends here in SA who would be with you in spirit as you celebrate the life of a truly amazing man.

Take care
Sharon Jansen

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver - The Summer Day

Dear Susan and Richard = First thank you so very much for taking the time to call in person with the news, which I had not yet heard and was so much kinder heard in person...and to read your email as well Susan...I am in a shock of tears.. It is with an unfathomable sense of loss that I meet the fact that I/we shall never again encounter his vibrant earthly presence, his newly-minted wisdom and cherishingly familiar stories. I remember his own "warning" about tending your life in advance of that phonecall that would change everything. I remember much of blessing, but find that does not stop the longing for more of what I had come to know and meet and love...including his great and glorious laugh...

I share your wishes that the great loss of his presence will lead to a strong resonance within and among us of all he tried and gave his life to "learn" and to impart. His passing still seems an impossible thing...but the shadow of his living is a long one. It must be truly devastating to his family and those with whom he most closely shared the riches of his great heart of feelings. Wishing you and all who will feel his loss, a beyond-words consolation and I know that we meet in the place of gratifude for his being and his fidelity to that being.

In sorrowful surprise...Joan

Susan, so lovely to connect with you.

And thank you for sending information about the memorial you are planning. There is a good chance I will try to come.

I am sorry to say that I will be heading to Orlando this weekend to cheer on my son and granddaughter as they run in the Disney Marathon. I wish they were running another weekend. I would love to meet you.

May I make a suggestion? If you are at all interested in attending mass on Sunday, the best place in Chicago is Old St. Pat's on DesPlaines and Adams. We have not yet fleshed out how we will commemorate John's life, but you can always find incredible preaching, fabulous music and radical hospitality at Old St. Pat's. I'd recommend the 11:15 Mass or 9:30. If you even think you might be coming, I will try to have someone meet you. (www.oldstpats.org)

John came some years back with Liam Lawton and Jeff Fitzpatrick (an artist from Mayo) and we sketched out plans for a Centre for Celtic Spirituality. Unfortunately, the centre has lost some of its initial momentum, but who knows?

At any rate, I will thank John eternally for drawing out the inner poet in me by challenging me to write blessings. I have actually written and published some of them in Ireland.

I am going to send you the details of John's funeral arrangements so that whoever is at Miriam's can sit in solidarity with his devoted mother and sibllings. I am seriously thinking of heading across the pond for the public memorial in Galway. American Airlines has a good flight for $438 round trip, if I make up my mind in the next day or two. You are very welcome to join me!!!

May John's enormous Spirit continue to guide and inspire us as we dig into his writings to discover the layers of meaning he has left behind. Please pray for Kristine, his soul mate as she struggles to let go of John's physical presence so that his larger, brighter Presence may shine through and comfort and hold her.

God bless.

Hope to have the blessing and privilege of meeting you.



Dear Susan,

Thank you for the information and, most especially, the place and space to share our grief. Every time John has been here, I have been there--as in "across the pond."

I also wanted to tell you that I did a small piece on John for my weekly column on the web, www.ReligionAndSpirituality.com. Thursday is my day. I quoted a few sentences of David Whyte's "Reflection" essay and also gave the link to miriamswell.org. The column is entitled "The death of a soul friend."

Thanks for you.

With all best wishes and a tender heart,


Adele R. McDowell, Ph.D.

Dear Richard and Susan,

I meant to write earlier but have been sitting with my own sense of shock, loss and sadness, and enormous gratitude for the presence and love that was the exquisite, human man John O'Donohue. Been sitting, stunned, sad, grieving, and yes, smiling in love and gratitude, all week.

It is just so overwhelmingly sad to all of us who spent time with him over the years. I'm still struggling to wrap around and accept, that his physical, earthy , poetic ,noble and raucously funny self, is gone. Gone from this world. He was so luminous, randy, exquisite of intellect and perception, and full of elemental fire. He was Ireland!!!!!!!!!

My first visits and meetings with John go back years when he came here, to Burlington, Vermont to a little Episcopa retreat center on the waterfront of Lake Champlain. Waayyy before he became "known". Those memories, and the tiny group of l0 or so, and the intimate conversations and poems, are a blessed presence still. I can't remember (over 50!) if I spent time with him through MW or not, but in Ireland 9 years ago or so, at the Glenstall Abbey in Limerick, Ireland for the Sophia Conference (put on by the Sardellos and The Spiritual School of Psychology,) he blew us all away one night during his 'lectue' and talk to us that evening. One person said, that he "singed a wide ring of fire around the hearth" from passion and ferocity of the talk he gave that evening!! We were all smitten, scorched, stunned into the heat of love, words, images' appetite and longing, for such a Force of Nature was this man! He was like a living, elemental Presence. Amen and Ahhmen. He possessed inner multitudes, that is quite clear.

I hope you are both finding your way in the wake of his death, and in the Absence where such an enormous, compassionate and commanding embodied presence was.

I know you both ADORED him, from how you spokeof him, and I think every person and critter who ever shared the blessing of walking near or under the mantle of his words, poetry, country and density felt his Blessing and His Love. For wasn't he really, maybe a bit more than all of us, a truly embodied presence of something grand, a bit from the Earth and the Invisible and Elemental World, come to us for a Grand Teaching and a to be a firey, devotional presence ,to teach us the same, right here, right now, on this holy, good Earth. And hasn't he done such a tender and exquisitely correct job in tutoring us. He has left us so much!

We are all in the circle of grief together, missing John, holding him –as we Irish always say– as he passes and makes his journey. He is still near, as I'm sure we all feel...taking his leave, and staying close enough to comfort us still. We Irish, you may know, keep the door open, in story, in fire and lit candles, in conversation and communication, with our beloveds during and after their death and passing for a long time! I hope that knowledge comforts you, and the MW tribe and community as I know John would want it to. This knowledge of the Celtic and spiritual ways of the dead are essential ,and for us,true. May this shared knowledge help you and bless you. And Bless John....and his dearest, tender, grieving family. We send them all of our love and say, All Good Things. We are abiding with you, for you, and for your beloved John.

Take good care.....much love, Aimee Gaffney, Burlington, Vermont

More Memories of John O'Donohue

Responses to the May 3rd Day of Memorial Tribute at Miriam's Well

Reflections by David Whyte

Memorial Services, Irish Times Obituary, & In Memoriam Links



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