“My survival alone was a miracle.”
Diagnosed in 2002 with a life threatening head and neck cancer, Liam Ryan’s doctors told him he should have never survived. Beating all the odds, today Liam wears an eye-patch as his only reminder.
According to Liam, his book was written by somebody ordinary, to encourage and inspire every cancer patient that will come after him. This is the sixth of nine articles in a series that covers his final chapter, Closure. Click here to read Part V.
Mass was the beginning of that every day. This was not like anything we had ever seen before. The sense of being part of something very simple and fundamental but uniquely special was overwhelming. These Masses were a gathering of complete strangers and yet it was as if we all knew each other. We had all come together in this place to discover an acceptance of our flaws and an appreciation of our abilities like never before. It was an amazing way to start your day.
After that we visited the apparition sites and went to hear the visionaries address the crowds. We also attended some of the other religious ceremonies. Not one of these events disappointed. In their own way they all connected with each one of us. They all put their own stamp on the individual thoughts and reflections that were going through our heads. At other times we took time on our own to go for a walk, light candles, visit the church or just browse around the shops in the town. I found the experience of both being in company and on my own, equally rewarding in a place like this.
In the evening it was time to socialise and meet up with the others from the group, or indeed, people you had never met before. Medjugorje attracts visitors from all over the world but there are no strangers here. All week I had incredible conversations with people I had just met. It was as if I had known them all my life.
Colombo’s bar and restaurant was the epicentre of all our social interactions. It was the nearest bar to the church itself. It became our second home and the place we were always to be found after the sun had gone down. If each day began with amazing Mass, it ended with some of the most memorable human interaction I have ever been privileged to experience in Colombo’s.
In between your day was filled with a serene sense of inner calm. You walked around with a genuine appreciation that the world was indeed a beautiful place to be. You knew that you were somewhere that could energize these emotions within you. This was a place that had the quality to bring out the very best in you. This place was very special and very rare. I will have very few days that will be greater than these.
No matter what the three of us did during the day we had one rule that had to be adhered to. You were not permitted to retire to bed before sharing a bottle of wine on the balcony with the other two. This became our own little forum to discuss all we had witnessed that day. Over a few glasses of wine we would analyse all the things we had seen and done, both collectively and independently. We viewed everything from all of the different angles. We purposely adopted the viewpoints of believers and non-believers. The discussions would range from looking for physical proof that God exists on one hand to rationalising the beauty and the devotion of blind faith on the other.
There was something very special about these late night conversations. We all spoke with a sense of freedom and honesty that rarely presents itself in normal life. We were not searching for results or conclusions. Nobody was trying to convince anybody else. We just made personal space to discuss things that are rarely discussed. The only conclusion that was made was a unanimous one. We were all delighted to be there.
We all realised, irrespective of our own beliefs, that we were somewhere very different to anywhere we had been before.
Medjugorje above all re-establishes a belief in the warmth of humanity. It does this, I believe, in a way that few other places can. All week you will find your self just sitting down and having the most incredible conversations with complete strangers. There is no awkwardness here, no barriers, no pretentiousness. It is a place where everybody can be their own humble, flawed but beautiful selves for one week at least. Even without its religious aspect, it is a wonderful place to be. It is a people place. A best of people place. Regardless of what you believe in, Medjugorje is a place where you will see humanity at its very best.
Stay tuned as we continue Liam’s story…
Reprinted with permission of the author.