Sometimes the way forward is clear. You made a decision to do a certain thing: go to school, accept a job, have a child.  The decision set the path. Now how that job is done, that child is raise, that school is navigated may not be clear, but at least there is some direction.

But, the way forward isn’t always as clear as we would like. We may feel as if we are dropped into the middle of a wilderness. We don’t know how to get out. There are no paths to follow. We have no compass to give us direction. We are not even sure what getting out of the wilderness would look like. 

This is what happens to us when we have lost something that has given us a clear sense of ourselves, our identity. When we lose a parent, a child, a spouse, a career—those things in our lives that are central to how we know ourselves—we often feel lost and unable to make our way forward. 

How do we go forward when this happens? First, it is always helpful to know that if the path forward is clear, it may not be your path. Our choices, our decisions and where they lead only become clear in the living of our lives. We don’t know how each day will turn out.  

Therefore, the way forward is one step at a time. We don’t know if the direction is right so we take a step and see where it leads us. Then we take another one. If we take a mis-step, we back up and try another direction—one step at a time, not beating ourselves up for our mis-step. This is the way forward in life. 

Helen Keller said, “If life is not an adventure, it is nothing at all.” Living life one step at a time takes courage. Take heart!! Be kind to yourself. See where the adventure leads.


I love change. I love it when the pain in my back changes to no pain.  I love it when the seasons change and we get different weather. I love it when laws are changed and people who love each other have the freedom to marry whomever they desire.   

I love change, except when I don’t.  I don’t like it when the laws that protected the voting rights of millions of minorities are struck down. I don’t like it when someone suffers because of the change in the economy.  I hate change when my sister was living and now she is dead. 

Freud suggested that being human is to love what we hate and to hate what we love.  Guess by this description I am human. 

But, regardless of whether or not I love or hate certain changes, the fact is I must learn to live with it.  I can try to grab onto what I love and keep it from changing.  And when it changes, I can hang onto the memory of the way things were.  I can attach myself so tightly to the way things were that I am create a prison made of the remains of that which has changed. 

Or, I can learn to live with change.  I can forgive the past for changing and find mercy for those who are responsible for the changes. I can open my heart to the possibility that there is something in the changed reality which I can celebrate.  I can try to imagine a new way of living in the absence of the way life was before. 

This seems to be important work if I want to flourish in my future.  My future is emerging from the changing of my  life the way it now is.  If I open my heart to it’s possibilities, maybe I will discover blessing.


She said to me, "He has been grieving all through her illness. It won't be as hard for him when she dies, will it?" Sometimes we want this to be true. When someone is diagnosed with a terminal disease and has a long period of suffering on the journey of death, we want to believe that when they die, part of the grieving will be over.

But, my experience and observation teaches me that anticipation of endings and endings themselves are two different losses and therefore require distinct and individual grieving. When someone is diagnosed and is sick, the loss is significant. The person has lost their sense of vulnerability and sense of a future. They are aware that there are limits to their life. The relationship moves from mutuality to one of care giving and dependency. Everyone in the family has to learn to live in the absence of the way things used to be. They grieve the loss of the way relationships were lived.

But, when someone dies, the whole picture changes. The presence of a person, even when they are ill, is still a presence on which everyone depends. Everyone develops ways of living and caring which reflect the love and compassion they feel for each other. But, when that person dies, each person has to learn to live in the absence of their presence. There is a finality to the relationship which was not fully appreciated before the death.

So, people who have had significant losses after a long illness still have to grieve the full impact of the ending of a person's life. Therefore, don't try to discount their feelings because someone they love was ill for a long time. The extended time of care-giving and grieving the previous losses only means that the person begins this grieving process more exhausted than they would have otherwise.  Grief is particular and individual. We grieve loss whenever their are significant changes. Be patient with each other.


I have heard people say that we ought to live so that when we die we will have no regrets.  I have thought about that and wondered how that might be possible.  I have concluded that for most humans, it is an impossibility.

Regret is a word that means "a feeling of remorse or sorrow for a fault, act, loss, disappointment, etc." (Dictionary.com). We live with some popular misconceptions that sorrow is somehow a bad thing. Some people think that one ought to live with eyes only on the positive--the gains--the gifts.  

But, who among us has not lost something that we wanted or been disappointed because life didn't work out the way we wanted it to?  Regret is the normal human response to our complex and interesting humanity that dreams of that which is not. Those dreams are our imagination filling in the future with possibilities that have not yet been realized. The greater the imagination, the more dreams one has.  The more dreams one has the more disappointments one will experience.  Not all dreams can be fulfilled.  To fulfill one dream is to lose another dream.  Thus regrets.

So, I don't think we ought to live so as to have  "no regrets" when we die.  To do that is to live a small life. I think we live with dreams, leaning into the unknown future with multiple possibilities, and then learn to grieve the loss of those dreams that don't get fulfilled.  When we do this, we feel excitement of hope and possibility, the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams, the sadness that accompanies loss of possibilities, and in this experience, we discover more about who we are and who we might become.

And then we grieve, we allow our discoveries to form our imagination for our future, and we open up to the limited reality of tomorrow. We learn from our regrets and we create new visions for our future. 


I put the trash out last night. Rather a ritual each Sunday evening. It seems like I just did it yesterday, but somewhere while I wasn't looking, the week passed by. There are moments like this when it dawns on me that life has been lived and I didn't even notice it. We journey through each day, each week, each month, living life as normal as we can make it.

But, sometimes something happens to cause us to wake up and notice our journey. It is often when we lose something or when we feel what is normal for us is threatened. Our senses stand on tip-toe and we are alert to the healing gifts of grace or the painful gifts of fear. We notice each moment. It becomes a vivid tattoo on our memories. This is when we know our daily journey has turned into a spiritual pilgrimages. 

Pilgrimages begin when our longings are intensified. We long for something that we don't have. We long for something more. And that longing gets formed into a decision.  We decide that we are going to act, to do something that leads to exploring our longing. Pilgrimages then become a reality when we leave home (or when home leaves us). Home is where the time slides by on the familiar patterns of familiarity. When we leave home, we are uncertain what is around the next corner, so our senses are heightened.  We notice. We pay attention to our life.

Some pilgrimages are chosen. They begin when we decide to make a change. Some are foisted upon us by circumstances in our life that we can't control. They begin beside a fresh grave.  Either way, they are spans of time in our journey of life when our eyes are opened to reality, when our heart feels more deeply, our souls expand in songs of lament or ecstasy, and our bodies are alive to the touch of earth. Don't let these moments go by without discovering greater insights into  yourself and your relationship to the mystery of life itself. Soon enough the familiar will seduce you back into familiar days that seem to go by way too fast.