Thursday, May 14, 2009

Orbs - An empty room

Have you a spare moment to reflect on orbs? There's no hurry, but this is a story I would really appreciate sharing with you.

Remember my friend Christine, the friend who died suddenly on Easter Sunday? I don't think I've mentioned her much before, but Christine was an outstanding person . . . compassionate, generous, talented . In addition, she was someone very special to me. In the course of a lifetime you don't form many friendships like that. Not only were we very close, but we shared the same values. Our friends were all-important to us. Her beloved dogs meant to her what Rupert means to me. We giggled at the same stupid jokes, shared the same sense of the ridiculous. But, most of all, we travelled on similar spiritual journeys . . . we recognised the same God.

Christine was fascinated by the orbs that, over this past year, have begun to appear in my photographs. I would phone her and tell her about them. Later, I'd send her copies so that she could enjoy them for herself. One of her favourites was the photo of the orbs amid the snowflakes, and, being a musician, she was delighted when orbs started to appear in photos taken at The Barbican and The Albert Hall.

A few days before her funeral a thought struck me, and it struck me forcibly. In our mutual quest for orbs, surely Christine would have wanted me to photograph her coffin?
I was certain she would support the idea, but it posed problems. Flash photography isn't something that can be done unobtrusively. I needed help. Accordingly, I phoned the person who was organising the funeral. It seemed wisest not to reveal the reasons for this unexpected request, so I told her that this was what Christine wanted, and offered no further explanation.

It turned out that the coffin wouldn't be waiting in the chapel before the service. It was going to be carried in after we'd gathered, and carried out again before we left. There would be no opportunities for photography, however discreet. But the kindly funeral organiser was anxious to be helpful. Very generously, she invited me to lunch, saying that we could pay a visit to the undertaker in advance of the funeral, and I could spend some time on my own in the chapel with the coffin.

Driving down the motorway, I found myself smiling. All the ramifications of my unexpected request, together with the secrecy, would have appealed to Christine's sense of humour.

The small chapel at the undertaker's was tastefully decorated. The closed coffin was on its own in front of an altar. I was left in peace to do whatever it was that I needed to do.

It was strange. I didn't feel Christine's presence with me there in the chapel. It was calm and peaceful, but I was on my own. Taking out the camera, I took six photographs, meditated for a few moments, then rejoined the others who were waiting outside in the spring sunshine

The service was beautiful and moving. A fitting tribute. I left soon afterwards and headed back to London. On reaching home, the first thing I did was to connect the camera to this computer and wait impatiently as it downloaded. At last . . . there they were, the six photographs taken in the chapel . . . I looked . . . I searched. But I searched in vain. There was not a single orb to be seen. Not even a shadow that could be mistaken for an orb.
Yes, you can imagine how I felt! I was bitterly disappointed. Somehow I felt cheated. Why on earth had I been so sure that Christine wanted me to photograph her coffin?

It was then, and only then, that the truth hit me.
Of course! How could I have been so stupid? Extremely stupid and extremely blind.
This very absence of orbs, this emptiness, was, I now realised, the precise reason why I'd needed to take the photos. It was the story of the empty tomb on Easter Sunday . . . Christine, the essential spirit of Christine, had gone. The total absence of orbs proved it.
Not only that, this very absence of orbs was notable in itself. Coming, as it did, so soon after the plethora of orbs in church on Easter Sunday. Here, in a chapel that seemed, on the face of it, to be an ideal setting in every way, there was not an orb to be seen.
Not only had this experiment proved that my camera wasn't faulty, that the so-called orbs weren't caused by specks of dust which would occur at any time, anywhere, it had also proved conclusively that Christine's spirit had left her body and moved on to a different realm.

I deleted the photos, they no longer exist. But their message remains and will always remain.
A treasured final gift from a much-loved friend.

Thank you, Christine . . .

. . .and thank you, too, thank you for sharing the story.