Farewell to John O’Donohue

January 11, 2008

my beach in the snowFarewell to beloved poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue. This loss feels so big and so sad, yet his spirit shines from the pages he left behind. He was just 53 when he died unexpectedly–peacefully, in his sleep–while in France. He lived in Connemara in the west of Ireland, he spoke Irish and wrote with clarity, from the heart. Here’s the Irish Times obit, and a nice tribute on God Is Not Elsewhere. Further info can be found on his web site. I wonder if, in writing this poem, he knew it would bring comfort to those he left behind. Slainte!

On the death of the Beloved

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or might or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

— John O’Donohue


  • I’m teaching a class on “The Divine Imagination” this weekend. His voice (on CD) has filled my home for several months now. I’d love to hear how others have developed material from “The Divine Imagination.”

  • does anyone know the name of john o’donohue’s poem that refers to that part of one that has never been hurt/injured?

  • I feel John”s loss so deeply. Spent a “Ten Days in the West of Ireland with John O’Donohue” , 3 years ago. His words wove images and meaning that gave me hope to step beyond what I had known. He bolted like a teen when I sang a parody on “The Wild Rover”, after I fell in his beloved Burren. What a loss…what a treasure.

  • What a lovely talent this fellow had. Thank you Susan for bringing him up so I could learn about him………lovely memorial tribute on his site.

    “Live each day as if it is our last” is what I live my life by – love each other and tell those in our lives how important they are to us. We never know when our time here ends.


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