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More thoughts on Hospice Work

Dear Ones,

As a western trained physician, I was taught that the most important if not the only thing I had to offer to people was my expertise and my bag of techniques. I believed that I could easily be replaced in all of my patient relationships by any other physician well trained in my specialty and that my absence would have the same effect as drawing my finger from a bucket of water. For many years I believed that this was true.

But, what is real is often seen most clearly on the edges of things, in the places where our tools are no longer relevant and our book learning no longer matters. In the places beyond cure. In 1981 when I first began hospice work it was like stepping from an operating room into a church. The deep relational values and art of the healer, long buried by years […]

September 15th, 2016|2 Comments

Hospice – My Grandfather

Dear Ones,

On October 21 to October 23, I am planning offer a workshop here in California for people who work with the dying and their families, called FINDING YOUR RESILIENCE: RECLAIMING MYSTERY AND MEANING IN HOSPICE WORK . Together we will explore the opportunity for greater resilience and renewal that emerges from openness to the mystery and deep meaning which is present daily in hospice work. In preparing for this exploration and sharing of thoughts and experience, I want to offer a series of poems and thoughts about death before this workshop.

I was almost seven when my beloved grandfather died. Shortly before he died my Grandpa told me that he would soon be going to be with God, that he would be close to me and hear me and I could talk to him in my heart as we had often talked to God together but […]

September 12th, 2016|2 Comments

Walking the Path


Belief in the Giveaway can be traced back to the North American Indian nations of the high plains. Our personal, sacred Giveaway is what we alone have come to contribute to life, our reason for being. Knowing and honoring your Giveaway imbues life with a sense of meaning and belonging, a sense of direction.

Everything is born knowing its Giveaway: trees and birds, stars and flowers know their Giveaway. Nothing is here at random. Everything belongs. Only humans are born not knowing their Giveaway, not remembering why they are here and how they belong.


August 19th, 2015|6 Comments


It is now almost Thanksgiving. This has been a big ten days in my cat Maxx’s life.   He is 11 months old now and ten days ago his momcat (furmom) had another litter. One of the 5 kittens was born much smaller than the others and weighed only 2.6 ounces.

Soon after he was born my friend Holly, whose cattery Maxx was born into, began to feed this tiny kitten milk from a bottle. She has set an alarm and fed him every hour round the clock for the past 10 days. He now weighs 4.2 ounces.

Maxx writes to Holly who he calls “furstmom” frequently telling her about his life and his thoughts. I am sending some of the emails he has sent to her and her mother (furstmommom) and his tiny brothers and sisters (tinywuns) over the past 10 days:


dere tinywuns,
u dere! i is so glad u dere! en […]

November 26th, 2014|8 Comments

The Last Cat

It is almost winter again. My beloved cat Cashmere died about this time last year. I have lived with a cat for more than 50 years. A few months ago, I started to look for another cat. I went to the places I usually go to find a cat that needs a home. At one of these Rescue Shelters a woman about my own age interviewed me. She began by asking me about the sort of cat companion I was looking for. “Just an ordinary cat,” I said. She smiled. “There are no ordinary cats,” she told me. She began to ask about my former cats, which led to a lot of stories. Finally she smiled at me. “This is probably your last cat,” she told me, “so you might not want to be too hasty.”

I was shaken by the thought but after a moment I saw the truth in […]

November 20th, 2014|36 Comments

Never Say Die

Last Thursday I did another free STORY TIME FOR GROWN UPS teleconference, this time in celebration of The Day of the Dead, a holiday in many other countries when people invite their dead ancestors and family members and other beloved dead to join them in feasting and celebration. A time when the veil between the living and the dead grows thinner and people recognize that the dead are not gone; their fingerprints are on our hearts and in the palms of our hands. As I was preparing for this teleconference, looking through my books for stories about death that I had written down and remembering stories about death I have not yet written down, I came across a quote from Woody Allen: “In America, death is seen as optional.” Really funny but perhaps also really true.

Death is just not part of the American Way of Life. In our culture that […]

November 3rd, 2014|15 Comments

Not Alone In The House

Life can be very hard. In the past few weeks, two people have written to me to tell me of a great loss in their lives. One was a man who lost his wife to cancer, the other a mother who lost her son in Afghanistan. Both told heart-breaking stories and both stories ended in the same way; they had prayed for their beloveds and had lost them anyway. Both the mother and the husband had come to the same conclusion. There is no one listening.

September 30th, 2014|24 Comments

The Grace of Being Seen

I wanted to share with you a letter that meant a great deal to me that was posted to my website in response to my last blog. Carol addresses it to physicians but it is true of us all; everyone who goes to work every day in this broken healthcare system in the hopes of helping others, despite everything. It has never been harder to be a health professional and I have never been prouder to be counted among the people who choose this work. We are what is right with the system. Perhaps some day we can build a system truly worthy of our patients and of us all.

September 9th, 2014|1 Comment

Becoming Enough

So many of you responded to last week’s blog by sharing stories about your professional education that I have been thinking about education and medical education all week long and wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.

For me, the process of education is intimately related to the process of healing. The root word of education–“EDUCARE”–means to lead forth a hidden wholeness in another person. A genuine education fosters self-knowledge, self-trust, creativity and the full expression of one’s unique identity. It gives people the courage to be more. Yet over the years so many health professionals have told me that they feel personally wounded by their experience of professional school and profoundly diminished by it. Many of you responded to my last blog with stories like this, experiences from your professional education that were disrespectful, even abusive. Some of you shared that these memories were still painful even after […]

September 2nd, 2014|14 Comments

One Of A Kind

When I was almost eleven years old my parents took me to Canada for the first time. I had never left New York City before and I was enthralled. I especially loved the antique shops and thrift stores, an interest I shared with my mother and we spent many hours in other people’s barns looking at old things, some broken, many dirty but all interesting. Once, as my parents were making the purchase of an exquisite old vase, I noticed a little box marked FREE next to the cash register. It was filled with odd bits and pieces: buttons, a part of a pin, a ring without a stone, colored beads. In among them I found two links from an old bracelet. My father had laughed when I showed him my treasure. “It’s broken,” he had said. “What do you need them for?” I had felt stupid. I had thought […]

August 19th, 2014|45 Comments