Her seeking has been galvanised by two catastrophic life events – the death of her husband, Dr Chris ‘RPA’ O’Brien in 2009, as the result of a brain tumour, and the death, almost two years later, of her son Adam, due to the sudden onset of epilepsy.
Her story has been captured in a book written by Gail’s daughter Juliette titled, This is Gail: Life with and after Chris O’Brien, published earlier this year.
Gail said that travelling with Juliette in order to promote the book was “cathartic and therapeutic”.
As the guest speaker, Gail was invited to explore ‘resilience’ – unsurprisingly. While there is much evidence that Gail is living resilience daily, the scientist and seeker within led her to research. She began with her much-loved elderly parents. They too are more inclined to live resilience than articulate it, but Gail concluded after a conversation with them that “Perhaps we do inherit a genetic predisposition to resilience.”
The thread that runs through Juliette’s writing, and both Juliette’s and Gail’s thinking, is “What does it mean to have a good life?”
Gail’s answer to this question is a ‘work in progress’ but she has learned that
- we are eminently adaptable
- grief is not linear but cyclical
- the Cross has become a symbol of our triumph over death
- there is a balance to the universe
- you must not quit….
Faith infuses her thinking and speaking and one practice she has adopted, which any of us might take on, is “Each morning I surrender the day – thy will be done – I just have to show up.”
Gail was gracious enough to share with a very appreciative audience the inscription on Adam’s headstone:
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
“Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver
In spite of everything, I believe Gail O’Brien has what she wanted from this life – and more.