The Last Meeting of Two Brothers: A Love Story

by Bill De Mello

When you attain, when you are aware, increasingly you will not be bothered about labels like “awake” or “asleep.” One of my difficulties here is to arouse your curiosity but not your spiritual greed. Let’s come awake, it’s going to be wonderful. After a while, it doesn’t matter; one is aware, because one lives. The unaware life is not worth living. And you will leave pain to take care of itself. ~Anthony De Mello

This is the story of the first meeting between two brothers, their last meeting, and of family events that took place in the interval.

On the afternoon of the 29th of July 1944, a 13-year-old boy ran from his home to visit his mother in a maternity hospital in Bombay, India. His thoughts ran faster than his legs, for the hour of destiny had arrived. The boy’s future would be golden as he planned—if the newborn sibling were male. But the boy’s future would be of iron—the iron of an apprenticeship in the railways—if the sibling were female. The 13-year-old boy was Tony deMello, and I was the newborn infant. When Tony saw me, he said with joy: “… So now I can become a Jesuit priest!”

On the evening of the 31st of May 1987, a 56-year-old man met his 43-year-old brother, in New York City. The older man was Tony deMello SJ, world famous spiritual leader, and the younger was I, Bill deMello, a little known layman. The meeting was at Fordham University in the Bronx. I recall the evening as though it were yesterday because I have relived it many times. We had dinner together in the canteen, and Tony, as usual, was most concerned about others. He wanted us to finish dinner quickly, so that the canteen staff could go home.

He was in the United States to conduct seminars on spirituality via a satellite linkup with 600 colleges in the US and Canada, and I was in Manhattan, sent by my Australian employers to work on a particularly interesting global project. In a telephone conversation earlier that day Tony had assured me that he had recovered from jet lag after the long flight from India.

But as the evening progressed Tony complained of stomach unease. This should have rung warning bells in me…Tony NEVER complained…he was always at peace with whatever fate dealt him.

After dinner we sat in a room to chat, and he left me briefly to take some medication. It did not help. What was planned as a few precious hours spent together was cut short by his increasing discomfort. He said he was tired and wished to retire early.


© Copyright Bill deMello

Before parting, we agreed to meet later in the year at his Retreat House in India. Our last minute was spent in a big hug and we farewelled each other with choked emotion.

The next morning Tony was found dead on the floor of his room.

A day later Tony’s body was laid out in the chapel of Fordham University. He looked so vibrantly alive that I could neither believe nor accept that he was dead. I broke down and sobbed … we had much unfinished spiritual business left unresolved. I went through the usual feelings of anger … 

Why did he have to die? Of sadness … I will never see him again. Of pain and guilt … I should have guessed he was going in for a heart attack and done something about it. Mostly of shock and disbelief … How could a seemingly healthy man, who had been given a clean bill of health by an eminent US heart specialist only months earlier, die of a heart attack? Should we call it fate, destiny, or God’s will? Those questions will remain unanswered till we brothers meet again; who knows where, who knows when.

Anthony de mello

Until his sudden death on June 2, 1987, Fr. Tony de Mello was the director of the Sadhana Institute of Pastoral Counseling near Poona, India.  Author of five best selling books, renowned worldwide for his workshops, retreats, and prayer courses, he aimed simply to teach people how to pray, how to wake up and live.

Most people, he maintained, are asleep. They need to wake up, open up their eyes, see what is real, both inside and outside of themselves.  The greatest human gift is to be aware, to be in touch with oneself, one’s body, mind, feelings, thoughts, sensations.

For more information on the Anthony De Mello and his teachings, please visit The site contains spiritual themes and exercises that can enrich and transform your life.

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