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Remembering Drew Umbers

A regular visitor to the Casa, Drew Umbers from New Zealand touched the lives of many many people who he met in Abadiania. His initial journey to the Casa is captured in Sharon's story which features in our 'Healing Stories' section.

Sadly Drew passed away on December 21st last with his wife Zhenia by his side.

Here we remember him by sharing with you some of his classic words of wisdom and advice to a friend in 2001 and also we share with you special tributes written by his good friends Christopher and Sally.

May he rest in peace.

Photo: Drew (right) with Christopher and baby Aleksy Spring'06

" ….it's really important for you to remember that what you experienced at the Casa is 100% available to you again right now without you having to save up and go there. Although I vastly prefer being there in person, it's not financially possible for me yet either so: AS SOON AS WE SIT ON AN UNCOMFORTABLE FORM SOMEWHERE AND CLOSE OUR EYES AND IMAGINE PASSING BY THE ENTITY AND BEING TOLD TO SIT IN CURRENT NEAR HIM, WE ARE THERE AGAIN IN REALITY - RECEIVING THE SAME HEALING, INSPIRATION AND ENERGY THAT WE'VE ALL EXPERIENCED BEFORE - DON'T FORGET THIS!!!!!!!!!!

I say this because I know how slack I've been sometimes, wanting things to get better and losing my patience when the roller coaster takes a dive BUT been too thick to realise that I'd given up sitting in meditation for the slow and steady healing to continue - i.e. me responsibly playing my part in the miracle rather than hoping it'll all just happen magically - the spiritual law doesn't work that way and it's bigger and older than me so I either get cracking and change my lazy, low-energy idleness or I keep sliding back downhill. It's so much more empowering the other way and you have to really master the tendency to be negative, critical and filled with gloom. No matter who else around us is like that, we can't afford to be! Listen to those others who carry the light, and fully protect yourself from the company and attitudes of the gloom-doom-and blame merchants out there. You've got to sit twice a day for any short or longer time and put yourself back there - humbly, with compassion for your self, and be open to learning about true self-love as it exists in God's eyes, not human ones. This so cuts out the need for drama of any sort and it's that which you were observing in some of the empowered folk in Abadiania - a choice they make every day, not some lucky natural quality - so it's all yours too, if you want it bad enough (as I do!). Get well - be well - go well - stay well." … remember this journey we've chosen is a raft-down-the-river: no idea what's round the corner - sometimes peaceful easy waters that we just float on, sometimes rapids which leave us exhausted or thrilled or terrified and breathless (depending how much you like rapids!), sometimes a straight run for a while, sometimes lots of "WHAT NEXT?!" corners, and sometimes a bloody great waterfall - but there's always changes on the way - no one stage is IT - and the Entities work on one thing at a time - depends how seriously off-centre our ailment is, and maybe how much time we put into daily meditation which of course is when they can work most on "whatever part they're up to".

For some reason, we are serious cases and need progressive treatment - I look at it like they're completely restoring a classic car and have to take the bodywork back to metal one section at a time before treating and repainting (and I hope rust-proofing), then they need to get into the engine and take out lots of pieces and gradually replace or repair them, then...... well, you know: it can be quite a prolonged labour of love with the poor old thing sitting in the garage for quite a while and just looking beautiful for now but not exactly roadworthy... YET. But keep on with the project and who knows..."
Drew Umbers 2001

When I first met Drew, in November 1999, the main thing we had in common was facing a life-threatening illness. Him, leukaemia; me, colo-rectal cancer. It was in Abadiania, Brazil, at the Casa de Dom Ignacio. We had both gone to see a spiritual healer known as Joao de Deus (or "John of God"). The Casa has since become celebrated internationally and visited by people from all around the world. But then it was well off the map.

Drew and I both had rooms at Martin and Fernanda's guesthouse (in those days it had just eight rooms, now I think there are 75). We saw each other every day for a month or more on that first trip, and then had our visits coincide - always by chance, or so it seemed - pretty much every year, up to the time when he met his wife-to-be, Zhenia, also at the Casa.

Right from the start it was clear that Drew was celebrating life, while befriending death. During that trip in 1999 his blood counts fell through the floor and he ended up in intensive care in the local hospital: Martin was with him the whole night and no-one knew if he would make it. He did, and within days he was back at the guesthouse, making his awful jokes and laughing his wonderful, mischievous laugh. There was a part of Drew that always knew his time was short. He accepted the presence of death, believed that every new day was a blessing, and taught us all with his determination to celebrate each one of them.

The great paradox with Drew was that he so often appeared the picture of health: on days off at the Casa, doing his laundry by hand, he would be stripped to the waist, his body tanned and toned, his deep voice booming, always ready for a new adventure or a wicked practical joke. He was clearly a medical paradox too; enjoying the fact that time and again he defied the conventional wisdom of the doctors. That was another thing we had in common: both of us wrestling with what often seemed the contradictory imperatives of spiritual healing and medical science. And Drew set us all a fine example there too: finding an intelligent, open-hearted way to balance the rigours of chemotherapy with the power of prayer.

Drew was also blessed - as was I - in having a loving partner who accepted his illness and lived with him through it: first Corene, then Zhenia. Each, in their own equally distinctive way, meeting him fully as a man - and as a mortal being. Corene helped Drew find the courage to live his life to the full, and Zhenia helped him to celebrate it, joining with him to create the miracle of their child, Aleksy Luc.

The last time I saw Drew, in New York last spring, he had his baby in his arms. What I remember him expressing was two things: a profound, almost blissful gratitude that life had offered him the gift of this child, and an uncertainty as to how his own life was going to turn out. But the fact that he was so on the edge - as, in truth, he always was - did not stop him being totally there, taking pleasure and responsibility, in equal measure, in a life he knew was impermanent.

That is the Drew I loved. The Drew I admired. And the Drew who made me laugh.

The Drew I thank for calling me "brother".

Farewell, dear Drew.

Christopher Sheppard
22 December 2006

Can you really be gone? Surely, not you…
For you were laughing in the face of death
So many times it just seemed it was who
You were - a man surviving, name of Drew.
Sometimes pale, yes, ghostly pale, it's true
And short of breath, but smiling, so it seemed
That thoughts of ending were what others dreamed
But never you. No, no bird ever flew
As high and fearlessly on their way home,
The long journey, wings beating through the night…
Ah, what an adventure, Drew, this last flight!
High over the ocean between the lands
You knew, secretly cradled by those hands
That had carried you so long and so free
That none of us could ever really see
That those nine times nine lives would ever end.
You were a gift, Drew, and I want to send
You hugs and gratitude wherever you are:
To know you was to know a shooting star.

Sally Potter
22 December 2006