Thanks for your response to a recent post where you spoke about a Captain Mark O’Brien who helped you when you most needed it.
I found your letter so touching Richard, when you spoke of attending his funeral, despite only knowing him for six weeks:
Today I saw how many lives he had touched, and how important he was to people in all sorts of different places. I learned that the many wonderful qualities I'd glimpsed in those six weeks were actually characteristic of him throughout a long life, and I marvelled at the courage of a man who must have been dying at the time (I met him) staying so true to himself.
Why do I grieve for a comrade I knew so briefly? Because he saved my life and probably my family's lives too. He took a chance on me (by giving me a public service job) when I was unemployed and practically unemployable. I was 45 years old and getting by on precarious casual work, with mounting debts and zero prospects. I don't believe I'd have kept our home, or a lot of other things the family needs, much longer.
Certainly I'd lost much of my self-respect and was headed for complete collapse. Then this one man - a brilliant eccentric, kind-hearted, erratic, visionary, and introverted - gambled on me who so many others had rejected. He took me on, instead of the safer options who would certainly have fitted in more easily and caused less trouble for him. It has made all the difference. It was probably the last significant act of his naval career, and I hope he knew how much it mattered.
Richard, in an interview I did for One Plus One a few years ago with author Tim Winton he described the time a stranger turned up at the family home without notice, to care for his father who had been badly injured in an accident. Winton’s mother didn’t know how she was going to cope had the stranger not appeared.
How amazing that you discovered your own angel in Captain Smith. I wonder whether he knew that you were struggling when he gave you that public service job? Perhaps he sensed your quiet desperation?
And how fortunate that you had the gift of seeing an extra dimension to Captain O’Brien by attending his funeral. Now you know what a rare human he was and that some of his hushed magic rubbed off on you, leaving a lasting impression.
Thank-you for telling us honestly about your struggles Richard and for revealing this wonderful individual.
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