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Tom, my older brother, deceased since February 2005, visited in this morning’s dream:

It’s night. I’m alone. After a long absence, I’ve been attending a gathering at my parish church. As I approach the exit I’m surprised to see my brother Tom, stunningly handsome in his dark overcoat, his blue eyes searching for mine. He reaches for my hands, holds them in both of his and says, “Let’s take this slow. This is new for me.”

For several hours I felt his loving presence while reflecting upon the staggering implications of his visit: The residue of our conflicted childhood was over.

In my perception, our mother’s unconscious enmeshment of Tom had engulfed him in chronic anger that, of necessity, he displaced upon me when growing up. Only when he left home for college in 1952 could I breathe. But he did love me, as he was able.

Evidence of this is found in the 1957 letter I received from him while fulfilling his ROTC service in the U. S. Navy. “Your choice to enter the convent does not surprise me. No man is worthy of you,” he wrote. He saw me like none other.

Then came Tom’s 2002 note, months after having vascular surgery on his right leg, “…you emerged as the No. 1 rooter for yours truly…thanks for that and all the other nice, unselfish things you do for us all.”

In his passing, three years later, he also shared his exquisite joy with me. He was finally home.

And now Tom’s plea, spoken in soft tones, unlike his usual speech, “Let’s take this slow. This is new for me.” left me wondering—perhaps to continue this dialogue, even enlist his help in the time remaining.


Once upon a time, perhaps two weeks ago or less, a most strange thing happened. It was the middle of the day, the sun shone, and breezes morphed cloud tendrils into somersaults.

There was this woman. Of all things, she found herself clinging to a rope. She had no idea how this happened, and no one was around to help. Through tears streaming down sunburnt cheeks, she looked up, then gasped—She couldn’t see the end of the rope. She looked down. The same was true there, but she heard the surf pounding the rocky shore. Perspiration moistened her legs hugging the rope, muscle pain fired distress, joints ached, and her grip crazed her knuckles. She was slipping and she knew it. She was going to fall.

 And do you know what happened to her?

 She was on the ground the whole time.

Frequently, I offered this story to stressed hospice patients, their gender matching the one on the rope. Played out by the recital of numerous ills and fears, they welcomed the diversion. Their eyes brightened as they identified with the plight of the unfortunate on the rope. Even their breathing quickened.

Then the question, … do you know what happened to her? riveted them, caused them to sit straighter. With my response, they slowly smiled. They did get it, and their duress was lifted, for the moment—Until the next visit and story.

Now that I’m the hospice patient, I sometimes feel like my eighty-four-year-old body is the rope in that story. Deep-seated habits of control prompt my holding on until waking up, once again, to my true circumstances and letting go. Only then is my contentment restored, the fruit of living the CPA 12 Steps. It’s working, one release at a time …



In the wake of spring rains irresistible puddles swell holes along woodland paths.



Eighteen-month-old Lily happened upon one, her rubbery legs encircling it with glee. Excitement mounted as the circles narrowed. Then, she paused at the puddle’s edge and jumped, water drenching her boots, her arms flailing at her sides. More circles followed with intervals of pausing and jumping. Instead of retreating to dry ground, she stooped over and rippled the water with a stick, stood up, then did it again. Her mother noted all of this beneath an oatmeal sky, and when Lily tired, gathered her in her arms and headed for home.

A simple story repeated around the world—it spoke of reckless abandon. Fearless, in full motion, focused, her senses totally engaged, Lily yipped with gusto—Certainly a desirable approach to new learning, when starting over.

And do we not start over with the gift of each day?

This prayer from The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous fires my attitude: We ask his protection and care with complete abandon.

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