’s Voyage and Paul’s journey.
Raheel Raza, Director
Raheel Raza Diversity Inc./Forum for Learning
expects no reward. Love knows no fear. Love Divine gives - does not
thinks no evil; imputes no motive. To Love is to share and serve."
While I’ve always believed that nothing in life
is a co-incidence, there are times when this feeling is so clearly
reinforced that it’s like an awakening. Something like this happened
to me a few weeks ago.
year I spoke on a panel at an event held by University
called ABRAHAM’S LIGHT. As with public events, I met many people and
one of them was a man who said he would have a book out in 2008. I filed
that information at the back of my head. Few weeks ago I got an email
from Paul Harbridge reminding me where we had met and asking if I would
review his book
’s Voyage. At this point neither Paul nor the book meant anything to
me other than an author promoting a book. I had just had a new
grandchild and was a bit selfishly involved in my own life and worries
about how to make a living. So
I said we could meet later in the month when I had more time, but Paul
called back and said he would drop off a copy.
On Sunday the doorbell rang and I was a bit
irritated because I wasn’t expecting anyone and had my grandson in my
arms. I opened the door and in an instant something flashed through the
eyes of the man standing there and hit my heart. There was immense pain
in Paul Harbridge’s eyes as he stood there holding his book. Later he
told me that the sight of a baby in my arms made him weep on the way
home. Only later I discovered that Paul’s 18 year old daughter Helena
had died in her sleep and this book is dedicated to her. Although this
is Paul and Helena’s story there is a deep personal connection. I
realized when I saw Paul standing at my doorstep that my life was meant
to be a bridge for others – the only tears I could weep would have to
be for others and that my purpose in life was not me – but people like
Paul crying out for spiritual aid! How foolish and petty are my worries
compared to the enormous weight carried by people like Paul. I was
humbled beyond belief and thrown into action.
I met Paul the following week to get details and
this is his journey about
’s voyage. Paul Harbridge is a speech language pathologist living in
. He had two children, a son named Daniel who is 25 and a daughter named
. Paul’s wife is from
so he says that he always felt his kids carried in them a dual heritage
– their Spanish heritage which Paul associates with the grandeur of
when three traditions thrived there. Paul and his family often travelled
Paul was raised as an evangelical Christian but
later he became a devout Catholic. He says he was religious but never
spiritual until Helena
was his love and joy.
had a special sparkle, she was full of life”. When Helena
was a child she had asthma and would call herself “ a sick girl”.
However she grew up to be strong and played in golf tournaments becoming
a top golfer for the Canadian Junior Golf Association in 2004.
was so bright that she got a scholarship to
and went to study there. Helena
was always helpful with other kids and was known to have a warm and
On Easter Saturday in 2006,
was getting ready to come home to her family in Toronto
. She called in the morning and said she was going to take a nap and
call later in the evening to give her flight details. She never woke up.
The University found her the next day when she didn’t call home and
the parents panicked. Doctors said it was some form of heart arrhythmia.
The family flew to
and brought Helena’s body home. That night
Helena’s brother Daniel stood in the porch of their home and cried so much
that a mound of tears was frozen near the door. Paul says he remembers
that night – he felt his heart would burst. He looked up to heaven and
asked God “How am I going to get through this? What am I going to do
with all the love I have for my daughter?” He
says he heard a response as though from
. The response was “Find a spiritual path and spread the love. Look
after people and give them love.”
Paul and his wife started reading, meditation and
contemplation. It wasn’t easy. “Pictures of Helena
would flash in front of my eyes and if there had been a way to leave
life to go and be with her, I would have done so”. At this point in
life Paul heard Karen Armstrong on TV and she mentioned two books. One
was The History of God and the other was The Ornament of the World: How
Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval
Spain by Maria
Rosa Menocal. Paul got both books and started to read them. He says
“I was fascinated by the connectedness between the three Abrahamic
Partway through the books, he and his wife went to Spain
to see his in-laws and he read the rest of the books there. “
was more inspirational than I could have thought. Here is where an idea
took seed in my mind to write a story about a Jewish girl whose
grandfather was a physician in the court of Spain.” Paul is not an
artist or a painter but he doodles. “One day I doodled a picture of a
teddy bear in a boat entering a Jewish City – the teddy bear became a
young girl and it took me exactly half a day to write
’s Voyage.” What about
the illustrations? “My wife encouraged me to try and draw but that was
hard. I drew the last page first – it took me 12 hours for every
illustration. But I did it and that was how
’s Voyage came about.” Paul’s son Daniel put the book on You Tube
and made the DVD adding spiritual music.
For Paul this was also his spiritual awakening.
“Every time I went to the computer to write, I used to light two
candles. One for Helena
and one for her Spanish grandfather”.
Paul says his other purpose for writing the book is
“at the time I was reading Armstrong and Menocal I was also seeing
images on TV of parents holding their dead children, killed by bombs, in
the Middle East and because I had lost Helena, I knew their grief for the first time in my life. That too influenced
my decision to write
I asked Paul what is his vision for Helena’s
Voyage and he said “I think my real dream is to one day seeing Jews,
Christians and Muslims united (not one religion but united in purpose)
to bring the word of God to a broken secular materialistic
numbers-focused world. To tell others that there is a God that
loves us all, that there are universal divine laws to guide us, that
there is a Spirit to strengthen us and give us wisdom, that true
happiness comes when we submit ourselves to doing God's will, and that
love is the only true force in this universe for God is love. Wouldn't
it be wonderful to see us, our differences set aside, our
commonality assumed, all working side by side to do God's work?
That is my dream.”
In some ways Paul Harbridge and Helena’s Voyage have reinforced that need for spreading God’s love and
God’s word. I want to help get the word out because there are many
different ways this is being done and I want to be a miniscule part of
that labor of love.
"For one human being to love another: that
is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last
test and proof, the work for which all other work is but
~Rainer Maria Rilke
Helena’s Voyage will be released in July but is available on Amazon and at
Chapters. Meanwhile here is information about the book. The book is
simple yet profound and the best review is from the children for whom it
was written although it’s a book that should be read by every adult as
Paul welcomes this being posted on websites.
Paul did his first reading at the school where
studied as a child. The school has laid a brick in
’s Voyage Reviews by Children in a Grade 6 class in