Death is not the enemy

Death is not the enemy; let contemplating our mortality focus our choices about how we spend our remaining days.

On a slow day of a winter storm, I sent out my occasional “musings” newsletter to friends and family and interested others. Now 77, I find myself increasingly playing with elements of my own aging journey and commenting on it. In that February “musing”, I invited folks to pay attention to the losings and the losses that occur as we age. I suggested considering them a “part of initiation” that helps us contemplate the new age stage we enter.

While I sometimes worry that folks will be discouraged about later life, as opposed to  considering the invitation to reflect and choose among all kinds of possibilities for the future, I am pleased when I receive affirmation. I was delighted by this response from my 66-year old friend, Lynda Overlock.

Martha, thank you so much for your latest “musing”. I always knew that more friends and associates would pass away when I reached this age…but I was unprepared to lose 14 in the past 12 weeks! Those deaths brought into sharper focus what we’ve been exploring, since some had good deaths, while others did not have people around them to ease their transition.

I’ve redoubled my efforts to complete some paperwork, make my wishes known to ALL my family (not just immediate), and I’ve given my pastor a copy of my end-of-life directives.

Personally, I’m continuing to weave baskets, and have joined a study group that’s reading Jim Wallis’ America’s Original Sin, that deals with social justice issues. I’ve been substitute teaching, but limit it to one or two days per month. I still tutor on Wed. afternoons at the library. So I’m keeping busy.  (end of note)

I thank Lynda. It warms my heart to remember the days we spent in our open discussions at the senior center during 2014-15.  How much those conversations seem to help all of us focus on the variety of issues that require our attention in later life..the living fully, the graceful aging, and the dying well.


Start the New Year Wise


Beware of rushing into the “new” too fast. Resolutions, intentions, bucket lists can wait a bit. Although December is the ostensible “ending” month of our annual cycle, and January the generally accepted “beginning,” dare to take your time. December inaugurates winter,  time to hibernate and contemplate and savor our experiences of 2016. Pause to honor the past 12 months and allow clarity about what’s really calling to you for the next several years to emerge slowly.

1.Take time for Review and Reflection

  • In 2016, what has pleased you? Accomplishments? Breakthroughs? Courageous experiments? The way you handled challenges?
  • What have been your disappointments? Losses? Endings? The challenges you didn’t handle so well?
  • What have been your lessons? Your hopes? Your dreams?

2.  Take time to go deeper

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Take a December Pause

When December arrives, it always hits me in a profound way. It’s cold, wintery, and the “ending” of the annual 12-month cycle of months of each year.

JanusWithout particular formality, I always find myself pausing to seek perspective…I look back, and I take stock. I pause to look at life in the context of what is ending, what needs to end, and what might begin. I participate in my own way with the cycle of season changes.

Serendipitously, the book EXIT: The endings that set us free by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, called for my attention. It helped allow the metaphor of the current year’s annual ending to take on broader significance.

There are so many exits over a lifetime.  Those we anticipate and those we choose seem to be the most common in our younger years as we grow and change.  Then there are those that come unbidden, the welcome and not so welcome, and the ones that bring relief or bring pain, or both.

How do we notice them, make peace with them, make meaning of them, and handle them gracefully?   Continue reading