A friend and The Golden Key

My friend Oi ( pronounced O-ee) had ideas so advanced that even Quaker Meeting – that most liberal and open- minded Christian group – threw her out.

She was born in 1900, the youngest of ten, to a father who was sixty years old, and she died when she was a hundred and four – so the two life-times covered a hundred and sixty four years, and went back to 1840. Her father was a cabin boy on a ship that was wrecked on the NZ coast in 1856. Local Maoris formed a human chain to rescue him, and he stayed with them for some time, becoming very close to the chief. After returning to England, he came back with a seventeen-year-old bride, and the Maori chief gave him land to start his life here.

Robin, Oi’s father, established a huge sheep farm, built a big beautiful house, cottages for his shepherds, barns, wool-sheds and an exquisite little chapel, where Oi and her nine brothers and sisters played the organ and helped hand out prayer books to the shepherds and their families as they entered.. As each child arrived, the generous chief had given them Maori land. He ceremonially adopted Oi, and gave her the Maori name Oiroa, which roughly translated, means: ‘compassion for those in need’. Though it was shortened to Oi, she lived up to her name always, and when I met her was beloved by many people for very good reasons.

She married a distinguished Auckland architect – sometimes known as NZ’s Frank Lloyd Wright – who created many of Auckland’s great buildings, like the Railway Station, and beautiful private homes including some famous ones in the Hawkes Bay. Oi herself was very musical, and played the piano, and was so deeply involved in the musical life of her adopted city, that in the early thirties she and another musical aficionado, started the first orchestra in the city, whose descendant is still thriving.

She was beautiful –  and open-hearted and sweet-natured. She was also unhappily married to a much older controlling, jealous and angry man. Other men loved her, and I picked up hints over the years of tempestuous scenes and dramatic confrontations, one in which her loyal cleaning lady divested a desperate suitor of his shotgun at the front door. Oi received and declined her last proposal in her eighties.

Her zest for life never diminished, in spite of a son’s suicide, a difficult life, and much loneliness. Neither did her kindness fail, or her energy, for that matter. I was sure her inner life kept her young. She was often busy driving “old ladies” shopping until well into her nineties. She obviously didn’t feel she qualified for that label – yet! Her spontaneity and authenticity, happiness and serenity, endeared her to all ages.

I met her at Quaker meeting, where we were both what is called attenders, as opposed to members. On occasion when the beautiful and mystical silence was gently broken by a deeply felt message, if it was Oi, as she was known for short, it would be a profoundly mystical and eminently practical thought.

Throughout her life she was drawn to mysticism, a branch of the spiritual life which has always been mistrusted by organised religion, as its devotees seek union with the Source, whatever it is called, thus bypassing the need for priests, mullahs, rabbis, gurus or whatever. Whether these mystics were Muslim, as in the case of Rumi and the Sufis, or Christians like Master Eckhart, or St John of the Cross, they often came to a sticky end at the hands of their respective religions.

Luckily in the twentieth century, this fate is not so common, and Oi escaped lightly by just being blackballed by Quakers! She explored most branches of both Western and Eastern mysticism, and in her thirties, became a lover of Ramakrishna’s teachings, keeping a photo of him by her bed-side always. He practised several religions, including Hindu, Islam and Christianity, and taught that in spite of the differences, all religions are valid and true, and they lead to the same ultimate goal- God.

After Oi introduced herself to me, and invited me to her beautiful house (I had not been long in NZ then), we became close, and she became my mentor. My two small children looked on her as a grandparent and we loved going to her serene and peaceful home.

Though it was in the city, it sat among mature trees and a rambling, flowery garden with a stream. Her architect son had designed it for her. Music, in her mid-seventies, was still her passion. Sometimes I would arrive at the garden entrance, and hear the glorious sounds of a trio or a quartet streaming out of the windows, and I’d stand silently outside under the persimmon tree, listening to Mozart or Mahler.

When the children and I were there, we‘d often end up singing round the piano with the student who boarded with her, and was a brilliant pianist and lovely tenor. We’d all sing favourites as diverse as Handel’s, ‘Where e’er you walk”, to: “Feed the birds,” from Mary Poppins. I had another musical friend, Phillipa, whose unbearable life (a romance I ‘ll tell another time) was slightly improved by taking clarinet lessons, and since her ambition was to play in an orchestra, she needed practice playing with others.

Hearing about her, typically, Oi offered to play with her, and through music-making, they learned to love each other too. I was spending the day with Oi when I learned that the ship Phillipa was sailing on had caught fire, and she and her two small children, one handicapped, plus her six-month-old baby, were adrift in a lifeboat in a violent storm. I never saw them again.

Oi’s unorthodox thinking, which of course, was not confined to spiritual practises, but spread into all areas of her life, alienated her family who were very religious and ultra- conservative. She rarely saw them, so she began spending Christmas with us until one son who disapproved of us too, was shamed into inviting her for Christmas after many years.

So it was that her funeral – which was attended by all those people from all walks of life, whose lives she had touched with love and compassion – was a very traditional one… which slightly puzzled me, as I was sure Oi would have wanted something different.

At the end her family left, and only five of us gathered round Oi’s coffin as it was lowered into the void – the student – now a judge, her cleaning lady for the last twenty years, my two now grownup children, and I.

The judge said to us, “That wasn’t the sort of funeral I expected Oi to have”.                    “No,” piped up the cleaning lady, “I still have a copy of what she wanted!”

I suddenly remembered how Oi, when she was too old to cope with driving in inner-city traffic, had asked her lawyer to call in and take possession of her will for her funeral. She had showed it to me – an exquisite collection of sayings on love, from mystics of all faiths. To my horror, the lawyer had charged this beautiful old lady in her mid-nineties, an exorbitant fee.

Standing by her coffin now, the judge wept over this betrayal of Oi’s wishes. “One more thing for her to forgive her sons for,” he sobbed. We all wept with him.

Before she died, Oi gave me the books which had sustained her, and influenced her thinking, and which had helped her  find her path to expanded consciousness and freedom. One of the joys of reading them was that she’d underlined or marked the passages which sang to her. Not only did I find this a wonderful aid to a deeper understanding, both of the texts and of Oi, but it also taught me the pleasure of marking and making my books my own, which I had never dared to do before.

I’d grown up learning that books should be treated as sacred, and never marked, turned down, or in any way treated as familiar friends. I do it all the time now, knowing that others who eventually find their way to them will – or might – enjoy the same pleasures of insight and intimacy as I have done.

Oi’s words still remain in my mind, and often come back to me. When there was a problem she would close her eyes, and focus for a minute, then open them and say firmly: “You cannot know the solution.  You can only pray that the situation evolves for the highest good of you, and everyone else involved. And know that this will happen, and let it go.”

She’d quote T.S. Eliot: “It is not our business what others may think of us,”… or: “God wastes nothing”. She’d say : “Let go and let God.”… and, “Happiness is like water in the palm of your hand. If you gently hold your palm open, it will stay. But if you clutch it and try to hang onto it, you lose it.” She died thirteen years ago, but her loving wisdom sustains me still.

The gift she gave me, which I treasure the most, and use constantly, is ‘The Golden Key’, a tiny spiritual masterpiece of only a few words. I give it now with love, as Oi did, to anyone who thinks it may be useful to them… https://morningstar.netfirms.com/goldenkey.html

Food for threadbare gourmets – those of us who qualify for this description will go hungry today, as I feel this post is so long, I can’t expect you all to go on reading, while Food for thought is contained in Oi’s sayings and in her life…


Filed under consciousness, gardens, happiness, human potential, life and death, life/style, love, music, spiritual, uncategorised, Uncategorized

35 responses to “A friend and The Golden Key

  1. Gorgeous post, Valerie. Oi was very lucky to have your friendship (and goodness me, families can be awful – and religious belief. This family will ever know what they missed through Oi’s latter years).

    It took me the better part of a decade to learn to deface my books; never looked back once I underlined my first text, which may well have been an Eliot … (easy to get carried away with library books, however!)

    Go well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whoops … typing between packing … that’s ‘this family will never know …

      Liked by 1 person

      • I knew immediately that the ‘n’ wasn’t there , Mark… my typing is so terrible that I have to get used to making leaps of faith in order to correct them, as sometimes the typos are so bad, even I can hardy remember what I wrote !
        Thank you for your lovely appreciation..of OI… no, I don’t think her family were capable of seeing who she was, so will indeed never know what they missed…
        Isn’t it satisfying marking one’s books… though I know what you mean by library books.. which is why I so often end up buying the book anyway
        Go well with the packing.. knowing that the purpose is worth the pain !

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Valerie. My personal practice has for some years been very similar to the Golden Key “recipe.” Yes. Persistent application leads to success. 😉 xoxoM

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Angela

    Valerie…..what a beautiful post. I first made acquaintance with Oi in your book Heaven is a Place on Earth ….how I loved that book and it was one of my first companions as I started to find out about an alternative ‘spiritual’ path. As I’ve aged ….no let’s say matured!….. I’ve always had a picture of Oi in my mind as an example of how I would like to grow older gracefully!
    Right….now I must get out my battered well-read copy of Heaven is a Place on Earth & sink blissfully into it once again!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Angela, what a simply lovely comment – you warmed the cockles of my heart !
      And how lovely too, that you remembered Oi from ‘Heaven is… ‘
      When I showed her what I had written, for her approval, she said to me that her heart was so full, because one person had understood and recognised what she was trying to do with her life…
      Thank you for all that you said, including your enjoyment of the book that I wrote so long ago ! ( twenty eight years !!!)
      with love, and thanks, Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

  4. She sounds like a very special person.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. She sounds like a remarkable person, and so do you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Cindy, for both thoughts.. I always enjoy it when you have time to comment – though with your amazing blog and legions of devoted followers, I don’t know how you have time to !!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Valerie,

    I am a book-marker. When something in a book I own strikes me as something I want to remember or pass on I have to highlight it or draw a picture next to it.
    Oi sounds like quite a person…well worth remembering. I’m sure she’s smiling down on your lovely remembrance of her as I’m also smiling.



    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great friend she was. Someone who broadens your thinking is very special indeed.


  9. I so understand your sadness over the lack of the ‘personal’ tribute to your friend Oi. But one thing I have learned over time, is funerals are really not for the dead, but for the living. The dead has flown on, even if they may be there watching us as we grieve, they understand that (for those left behind) closure is an important piece of letting someone move on. In this case those children needed to have the ritual of tradition, for whatever reason.

    My maternal grandfather so desperately wanted to be buried in the mountains with a Quaking Aspen as his headstone and Columbine flowers as a blanket over his grave. (He was born in a covered wagon in the last land rush into Oklahoma territory—he said the sky, the land and the seasons were his religion and a gift to him), with just the family present and no preacher.

    My grandmother was raised a traditional Baptist with a close Uncle as a Preacher in that church. Momma (an only child) wanted so very much to do what Granddad wanted, but my grandmother didn’t. Momma was pretty upset and was trying to push my southern born and raised grandmother to do as grandpa wanted.

    It was at this point that I learned a very strong lesson about funerals—Grandma reached over and patted Momma’s hand and said…”Shhhh, LaVerne. Will is gone now and he wants us to love him and remember him. Here in the cemetery I can come and still see his name, stand here and feel his presence, if only in my heart. You must understand, LaVerne, funerals let us move forward.”

    We had a full-blown Baptist funeral.

    I love that saying: T. .S. Eliot: “It is not our business what others may think of us,”

    Love you, my friend!


    • Linda, what a lovely lovely comment.. I loved reading about your family… your grandfather born in a covered wagon… real pioneering stock…
      I understand exactly what you say about funerals… and also have this belief that those whose passing is marked are also present !… And I also knew that Oi had done any forgiveness needed,though love means forgiveness is usually not needed!…’

      Am for behind with everything… still haven’t got back to you… I have over two hundred e-mails to delete or answer in three different e-mail accounts,( ie six hundred) and am feeling I have a couple of mountains to climb – but you know I will be back XXXXXXXXXXXXX

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oi sounds like she was a wonderful person. What a shame that her family could not see past their beliefs to accept her way of being.

    Yes, I have avoided underlining or writing in books too. It feels forbidden, like something a naughty schoolgirl might do! But I realized that there really is nothing to stop us, apart from ourselves. 🙂


    • Yes,… I feel that happens more often than we know… or care to admit…

      I laughed when I read your remark that there was nothing to stop us marking our books, except ourselves… that’s the way it always is with ingrown injunctions from childhood, isn’t it !!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What a lovely person Oi was. So grateful to you, Valerie, for writing about her. I’m so sorry about her betrayal at the end by those who SHOULD have been close to her. And thank you for The Golden Key. ox


  12. What a masterful telling of a dear friend’s life. Only last week I told my husband if I die first, I don’t want a funeral. I have a poem that he and our daughter can read or speak to each other, but that is all. For years now, I have treated things about which I had no answers as things I turned over to the God-force/Universe to resolve in my best interest. I have never been disappointed. For me, this fits nicely into the Golden Key practice. Thank you for sharing it. I would be interested in knowing about some of the other reading Oi left for you, if you think it is appropriate, down the road… namaste.


    • Thank you Ardys… your comment made me happy to think that I had done Oi’s life justice…
      Yes, I could tell from your writing that you had found your own golden key …. and I know what you mean about funerals… I either want every aria from opera I’ve ever loved, half of Handel’s repertoire, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Schubert’s too, St Mathew Passion and Carly Simon singing ‘Let the river run’, or nothing but a poem… maybe just that line from TS Eliot, as I too have Oi’s problem about those close to me not understanding !!!!
      yes, indeed, namaste to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Stephanie

    Beyond words…this post touched me too deeply to explain…


  14. Stephanie – thank you for your deeply felt comment. I appreciate it.


  15. Third time around, Valerie!!! There are bright lights that glow years after they have moved on in their journey. As I read through your words, Ravindranath Tagore’s words came to me: “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting gout the lamp because the dawn has come!” Much love coming your way.


  16. Anonymous

    Tena koe Valerie, I found your site as I was looking for information on Oi. A bit of an eye opener I must say. Thank goodness she had a friend in you. I would just like to mention her father was Robert Thompson Batley. (unsure about Robin)


    • Thank you for your comment.. did you know Oi … she was so special… I understood from others that her father was called Robin… maybe both !!!!
      Why are you looking for information on Oi – would love to know….


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