So many of my blog posts this year have been me-focused. My year of adventure. My dream of Pure Spaces evolving from passion project into purposeful career being realised. It is true to say that, for this phase of my life at any rate, I am a walking example that my Wellbeing Toolbox works.
When life is good, it is good, right? But what about life when it is not good at all, tragic even? Or what about life when its neither good nor bad, it just ticks along at a mundane pace?
Pondering these sorts of questions recently got me thinking about genuine human connections. I haven’t really addressed the value and importance of genuine human connection in an obvious way in my Pure Spaces content yet. It is time to remedy this. Which brings me to defining Anam Ċara, a phrase I use quite a lot on the Pure Spaces website.
John O’Donohue in his book Anam Ċara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, talks about the phrase like this:
In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam ċara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and Ċara is the word for friend. So Anam Ċara in the Celtic world was the “soul friend.” ….With the anam ċara you could share your inner-most self, your mind, and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam ċara, your friendship cut across all convention….. and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with a “friend of your soul”.
I have also read it expressed like this:
Anam Ċara is a Celtic phrase that loosely translates as “soul friend.” It describes a sacred relationship that is founded in connection, authenticity, trust and respect….. a Celtic philosophy….. that two souls that experience a unique and deeply personal connection will be stronger together than they are apart.
I am truly blessed to have a few anam ċara in my life. And out of this year of absolutely incredible adventure I have unexpectedly found a few more.
This is the story of one particular soul friend whose life journey is now entangled with mine. With his permission I am sharing some of his story and our story to provide the context for a new collaboration, with a wellbeing focus, that will unfold on this platform over the coming months.
Graham came into my life unexpectedly, shortly after I arrived back in South Africa adventure bound. He and I are a couple of old souls now getting a chance to spend some of this life together. We share a similar connection to Nature and the same passion for wildlife conservation here in magical Mzansi. We also share the same love of adventure and have already had opportunity to travel together. A road trip with a kindred spirit can be the perfect way to genuinely connect and share story openly.
Graham is gifted in his work as a guide. He has an innate creative ability to interpret and articulate what is going on in the African bush. Yes, you see it through his eyes, but more than that, you experience it authentically for yourself. Shortly after meeting him, I tried to describe it in this post.
Perhaps this little video will also help give you an idea of just how special a guide he is.
From reading that blog post linked in the previous paragraph, you can already tell how meeting Graham impacted me. I was very surprised and overwhelmed by the suddenness of this connection and how we both articulated it in a similar way. Like John O’Donoghue says, “This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam ċara, your friendship cut across all convention….. and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with a “friend of your soul”.”
Some months have passed now and we are settling into what anam ċara means for us. It seems strange to say only some months have passed because Graham and I feel as if we have known each other a lot longer than that.
“With the anam ċara you could share your inner-most self, your mind, and your heart.” As already mentioned, the universe gifted us the opportunity to travel together recently and visit some wild places very close to both our hearts. We had no idea what would eventuate on this adventure but during this time our soul-friend bond has been knotted. We hold a trust space open for each other in mutual love and respect. This level of connection has been unexpected but compelling.
Why am I laying this all out? Our story is deeply personal and we are still trying to navigate our heads and hearts around this new space for us. The answer is, I am trying to paint a profoundly human picture for what comes next in this story of genuine connection.
It is time to introduce Shan, Graham’s sister. He trusted me with this part of his life quite soon into our friendship. An act of vulnerability on his part. How could he know how this part of his heart-story would be received? Now with both Graham and Shan’s permission I am sharing it here.
In early 2017 Shan was bitten on the hand by a mongoose and contracted septicemia and Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation. As the sepsis tore through her body at speed, organs shut down and she lost blood supply to her extremities. To save her life she was in an induced coma for a couple of weeks. Gangrene set in and as a result, all four of Shan’s limbs were amputated. First her lower legs and then her hands a couple of days later. Then a few days after that her nose, lips and tip of her tongue were also amputated. Many months of rehab later she got to go home. Her life and the lives of her family utterly changed.
To take in Shan’s story shared through her loving brother’s voice was deeply moving. We were fireside under a glorious African night sky. The energy of that evening was unforgettable. After relating these events briefly, he actually spent more time talking about how inspirational she was. How she had actively chosen not to focus on all that she had lost. Shan courageously chose to live life to the fullest possible in spite of her tragedy.
It was later after much more conversation that he told me about Shan’s online presence. She had again made a courageous choice to share her journey as a way of inspiring and motivating others. Her voice is indeed extraordinary. See for yourself. Links to Shan’s social media at the end of this post.
I think I would have been amazed by Shan’s story if I had come across it online, for sure. But to experience this incredible woman’s strength, determination and resilience through the eyes of my soul-friend takes this to another level for me. That is why I have carefully taken time to lay the whole out here. I hope you can connect to the humanity in this story in a more profound sense than if we had simply shared the surface facts of the situation.
My life’s journey has become entangled with the journeys of these two beautiful humans with extraordinary voices. One of these extraordinary voices speaks the same soul language as mine. The other extraordinary voice floors and inspires me with her beauty, grace and courage.
Shan does give light. In the short time I have known her, she has illuminated my life. I have been offered a different perspective on life from Shan’s light. I can also see the light she gives into her brother’s life. I see it in his eyes and hear it in the tone of his voice when he talks about her. And I am sure the inspiring content she posts online gives light to many.
Five years on and Shan’s challenging journey is ongoing. There are the realities of living as a quadruple amputee and enduring the ongoing symptoms of post sepsis syndrome. Medical costs continue. Family and household costs continue.
As I write, Shan is undergoing yet another procedure. The next part of the lengthy process that will ultimately allow her to walk again. This procedure is happening across the country from where she lives. Her support system, in the form of her husband Ant, goes with her. There is time away from work necessary. There is time needed for recovery.
Put yourself in this position for a moment. How would you deal? Yet with all Shan faces over the next couple of weeks, she returns my messages with requests for detail to pen this story with dignity, kindness and grace.
How to help? The most practical support we can offer is monetary. So this is my request for donations. Please help ease the financial burden if you can. Every little bit counts and your support is very much appreciated.
Please consider too that there are little to no social services here in South Africa to assist Shan and her family.
Two last thoughts to bring this post to a close.
First, it is our anam ċara that share our joy when life is good, open a safe space for us when there is grief, sadness, tragedy or just be with us as life ticks along at its mundane pace. The soul friend connection transcends conformity or convention and is a gift to be treasured.
Second, this is not just the beginning of a fundraising campaign for someone in need. This is a genuine connection collaboration to share story. To share that journey to better wellbeing for us all. We are stronger together than we are apart.
I am deeply honoured to be sharing some of life’s journey with Graham and Shan. 💜
Details of how to donate…..
The Shaninlea Visser Special Disability Trust 💜
Acc Type : Trust
Branch : 250655
Swift Code; FIRNZAJJ
Please note this Trust is audited annually. If you require a donation certificate, one can be arranged.