Tuesday, November 29, 2022


                           CHAPTER 6

                 The ‘Why’ of it

                                   (May, 2017) 

As you can tell by now, my approach to dealing with ‘Living’ (as opposed to ‘Dying’) is probably different than yours would be. I can assure you it’s different than I expected. 

After all, you and I have spent a lifetime assembling what seem to us viable answers. We sort them out, think them through, and keep the ones that appear to fit our circumstances. Then, having gathered those ‘keepers’ together, we tell ourselves that we have created the ‘life-answers’ that work for us. It is all so logical and straight forward.

Until that is, we are forced to test those assembled ‘answers’ against a not-so-logical real-life challenge. Are they still a ‘fit,’ even in the face of potentially terminal consequences? A time like that calls for strength and direction. Do those ‘answers’ of ours suffice?

And of course there will be times when those answers are not enough….when we are stymied by uncertainty and a lack of verifiable facts. When it come to health issues, whatever our ailment, there are bound to be unknowns. Trials of that sort do not move ahead on a predictable schedule. 

Even now, with my first round of treatments completed, I must wait another month or so before the results of that therapy, good or bad, can be determined. Only then can the doctors chart the next stage of my cancer journey.

Still, in the face of that uncertainty, and with time on my hands to think about such things, I am looking ahead….wanting to identify the hopeful elements of my circumstances, while at the same time seeking the strength to confront what threatens to undo me. For me, as perhaps for most folks, that leads me down what I consider a spiritual path, seeking something solid to lean on.

If you have followed my earlier chapters you know by now that I accept the Divine as a part of me, instead of a separate ‘other.’ I do believe in the ‘more’ that touches our lives. I believe that ‘something more’ has a cosmic connection to our Source, THE Source. And when I need to name that source I call it God.

Finally, any honest discussion of cancer and its emotional impact must deal with the possibility of death. It is, after all, the 800 lb. gorilla most of us cannot ignore. I have read somewhere that the middle-East ISIS army countered such concerns by promising to have 26 virgins waiting for each fallen warrior who reaches the Great Beyond. Apparently that worked for them, though I’m afraid my arrival would be a disappointment for all concerned.

In any case, for someone like me the details of that ‘hereafter’ remain` an unanswered question. I accept that after death the Source may well make use of my soul in some way. I am personally attracted to the possibility of reincarnation, as befits one weaned on Edgar Cayce and Wayne Dyer. Still, no matter what comes next, I expect I will have to wait until then to find out (or not.)


In the meantime here I am, having come to terms with a cancer diagnosis, and moving past the initial shock to concentrate on living with that reality. Chances are I will have years to work on that, for which I am indeed thankful. 

 But as I explained earlier, I am not particularly interested in gaining an extended life span simply in order to live longer. I don’t want to score my life by how long I live….but rather, how well I live. Stated another way, I believe that outliving the ‘worst case’ of any existential threat implies an obligation to use the time gained in a worthwhile way….to have a reason or purpose for staying alive.

So let’s take a moment to think about 'having a reason to keep going,' to staying alive. What does that mean? And where do I stand regarding the ‘purpose’ questions I have raised along the way? Have I found credible reasons for going on….one or more personal goals suitable for the last years of an old man’s life? Do I know what I should be doing with those year?

In a word, or two….”Not exactly.” 

Still, though it is too soon to settle on the specifics, let me explain where my thoughts have taken me so far. For instance, I have recognized the need to strike a balance, a productive blending of the external and internal elements of late-life into a functioning whole.

Most of us would agree that family, and the loving attachments it represents to aging grandparents, is reason enough to continue nurturing those connections. Remember, science tells us the reproduction and continuation of the species is a primary function of life. I am quite willing to accept that as a noble purpose. 

More than that, I can claim an extraordinary level of success for Roma and myself. We have certainly fulfilled that reason for our being. Our family….four children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren (so far)….is most certainly a blue ribbon assembly. Not only that, they are showing signs of doing their own part to continue an expansion of the race. Score one for our side.

Yet family is only part of what I call my ‘external’ life. Beyond those vital relationships I must also consider the role that friends and associates play in completing a whole and wholesome life.

It is there, in that ‘friends and associates’ realm, that I sense a definite need for improvement. Though I have sometimes been accused of being anti-social, I prefer to label myself ‘unsocial.’ I do like people, but in small doses. 

I am not, however, one of those who needs a constant stream of human interaction. So, without quibbling over definitions, I can safely say that cultivating my social skills, with an eye towards being a better friend to more people, is something I ought to work on. 

Is making friends something I can accomplish by simply trying harder? I don’t know about that. But a person like me, wanting to make the most of his time, ought to be doing more than I am.

With that I turn to what I call the ‘internal’ side of life….that ill-defined assemblage of mind, consciousness, and soul which resides in my heart and between my ears….the part of me that motivates, evaluates, and directs my thoughts and actions. 

Although I absolutely believe in the value that ‘inner me’ can add to my life, I must admit that my level of success in those ‘internal’ matters is dubious at best. Too often I have fallen short. Perhaps I can explain.

Several years ago, in a vaguely remembered time of trouble, I composed a simple prayer, which I continue to revisit on a daily basis. The opening lines of that meditation go like this:

“Thank you, God. Thank you, Spirit. Thank you, Source. 

“Help me I pray, to be an instrument of your intention….so that your intention might be my intention.”

In those few words I hope to remind myself of the Divine God-spark that I believe resides in me. In even the best of times I need the help of Its ‘intention’ (i.e. Its Love.) to keep going. Though I have too-often overlooked the need for that help, I accept that my pleadings are real, and my hope is justified.

You can tell at a glance that I owe my prayer format to a special hero of mine, St Francis of Assisi. Or perhaps I should say my interpretation of St Francis, because he might not agree with me at all. In any case, my intent is simple enough. I am reminding myself that, aided by Divine intuition and inspiration, it is my responsibility to become the means (the instrument) of living out what I consider the Divine intention….i.e. Love.

Finally, in this early stage of my seeking I have identified one other reason to carry on. In the course of the last fifteen years I have invested an inordinate amount of time and thought creating the late-life Tanner Chronicles stories I tell, along with the family adventure tales that Roma and I have written together. 

For that long I have tried to make those books as authentic and true-to-life as possible. More than that, in the process I have learned a thing or two about October and November life.

Whether or not the resulting stories, seventeen so far, have literary merit they, along with my October Years blog, have served a personal purpose….a reason to get up each morning and exercise that most amazing example of our Divine inheritance….our imagination. I expect to keep doing that as long as I can.

And that, in a few paragraphs, provides a glimpse into some of the nooks and crannies I am exploring, seeking the best ways to use my remaining years, the ones that seem more vulnerable than they did six months ago. 

Whether I turn to external reasons, internal reasons, or the stories I imagine into being….these are not necessarily grand and noble purposes I am contemplating. Instead they are the ones that pull me forward….the ones I hope will blend my time, my love, and my imagination into a future that honors the time I am given.

In the meantime, as I hopefully avoid the painful symptoms that cancer is capable of producing, and continue to recover from the post-treatment ‘punies,’ I intend to concentrate on Living in the face of Dying, and at the same time continue to blog about other late-life matters.


As I close for now I am thinking back to questions I asked myself at the beginning. Has it helped me, telling this still-incomplete story of mine? I believe it has. If nothing else it has provided structure for the way I view my dilemma, while helping turn my thoughts from dark and gloomy to something brighter. 

Beyond that, putting these thoughts on paper has served as a wake-up call, nudging me toward a more internal, dare I say more spiritual, understanding of how to carry on in the face of an apparent disaster. In the next chapter, which will probably the last one for a while, I plan to address my understanding of where that not-so-subtle ‘nudging’ is leading me.


Saturday, November 26, 2022



                                        CHAPTER 5

                      A Focus on ‘Becoming’

                                (April, 2017)

Do you ever pause to consider the context of the life you are living? I took a moment this morning to revisit the first chapter of this LIVING WITH DYING story. What struck me at once was its tone. Those early days….that was nearly three months ago….were not a good time. I was down in the mouth….caught up in the harsh reality of an unexpected cancer diagnosis and feeling sorry for myself.

I began that post intending to see where this daunting journey, with its overtones of terminal possibilities, would take me. Now, after all that time, I can sense a distinct change in attitude. 

The threat I feared at first has retreated to the background….still there, but not nearly as intimidating. My once-dark thoughts have evolved from ‘Dying’ to ‘Living,’ and I try to concentrate more on possibilities and potential, and less on the ’worst case’ trials that may still await me. 

Contributing to that change of heart has been the feedback some of you readers have offered regarding these blog posts. I made the point earlier that trials like mine are universal. Many of you readers have experienced the cruel reality of cancer and other late-life tests in ways far beyond what I will ever face. Given that, what right do I have to play ‘poor me’? Instead, I need to deal with the life I have.

In any case, it feels like I am ready to move on, with a special focus on what may strike you as a new and slightly different way of looking at a life well lived.


As I mentioned at the end of the last installment, my reading has led me to a vaguely familiar place, and an expanded, more coherent explanation of what I have long tried to put into words….an understanding that rang true the first time I considered it and still does.

In his recently published book Emergence, Derek Rydall uses an oak tree as a metaphor for the process he is describing….emerging from a tiny acorn to become a deep-rooted giant, reaching upward and outward in all its mature majesty. That seems to me a useful image, illustrating how over time the sprawling oak emerges from its modest beginning.

Before we go any further I invite your reaction to one of the Rydall’s primary conclusions. Reduced to its simplest form it reads something like this….our deepest, most soul-felt desires are hints of a Divine instinct that already dwells in our consciousness, longing to emerge, wanting to be lived out in our daily life. 

Still using his graphic 'oak tree' image, the author then argues in favor of another bit of existential magic, something I found very familiar. 

He hypothesizes that every sort of life, whatever its form....flora or fauna….arrives on the scene with everything it needs to become what it is intended to be. Beyond that, he concludes that the human link in that life-chain, the part which includes you and me, begins as a speck of DNA-infused matter that includes a spark of Divine energy, brimming with the potential to ‘Become.’

Again, at the heart of Rydall’s logic is the belief that whether it is a forest acorn or a human embryo, with proper nurturing that divinely-inspired beginning contains everything it will require to emerge as the creation it was meant to be. 

In the human example, he surmises that what we see, feel, taste, or touch, and every relationship we have….everything that we encounter in life….is experienced in our mind, aided and abetted by that same Divine energy. What that means is this…. whatever happens to us ‘out there’ in what we call the ‘real world’ is a reflection of what is already in us. I must admit, his understanding of our internally directed ‘Becoming’ seems valid to me.

I hope you will bear with me for a moment as I compare Rydall’s insight to an excerpt from one of my Tanner Chronicles stories written way back in 2009. When I first wrote this scene I was calling the story “Maybe This Time.” It was the brief exchange I offer here that unexpectedly sent my narrative off in a very different direction, to become the book I published as “Becoming.” 

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked, knowing that I was not sure at all. “I’m not exactly a church kind of guy, you know.”

A moment later Maria nodded her understanding, so I took a deep breath and threw caution to the wind.

“Okay, here’s the deal,” I began. “You talk about a God who has rules for every step you take….who comes down hard on you when you break those rules.“ That had her nodding her agreement. 

“But the God that makes sense to me,” I continued. “The One I can accept, gives us the freedom to be ourselves and expects us to play a part in what It is creating, even when we make mistakes along the way.

“Let me explain if I can.” By then my unfamiliar role as spiritual advisor was growing more uncomfortable by the second. “What I think of as God has given every single thing that It creates all that it needs to become whatever it’s supposed to be. 

“And once It has done that, It sends that creation off to become that intended ‘something.’ That is true for a tree, or a flower, or an animal. They all use what they’ve been given, and do their best to become what they are meant to be. And I believe it’s that way for people too.

“That’s what I think we’re supposed to be doing here,” I added, hoping I had not lost contact with her.

“We’re in the process of ‘Becoming.’ And as long as we live we will never outgrow the need to continue that journey. Along the way, part of our job is to learn what it is we’re supposed to do or be….that might be a caregiver like you, or a storyteller, or anything else. The main thing to remember is that we’ve already been given everything we need to be whatever that is.”

With that I had pretty much exhausted my God-thought repertoire.

Small wonder I found Derek Rydall’s hypothesis so compelling. He had taken an idea I had been trying to sell for years, dressed it up and made it presentable. 

To be clear, he stresses that success in any ‘Becoming’ venture is never guaranteed. Life’s fragile ‘Emergence,’ whether in a sprouting acorn, a newborn child, or a November octogenarian, begins with a hopeful dose of potential….possibilities that are awaiting the nurture, care, and circumstances necessary for their Becoming.

Where Rydall departs from the spiritual logic most of us learned as youngsters, is the role of an external deity in that emerging life cycle. An ‘up-there,’ ‘out-there,’ ‘behind-the-curtain’ God to whom we address our prayers and make our pleas is not part of the ‘Emergence’ he describes.

If I interpret him correctly, Rydall’s vision of the Divine (a concept that he readily accepts) does not include a heavenly scorekeeper who hears humanity’s prayers, then distributes them into files labeled ‘granted’ and ‘not granted.’

Frankly, I appreciate the way he faces those stumbling blocks head on….moving beyond a God who makes such arbitrary choices. 

He addresses the age-old rationale that “God knows what is best for us” by simply asking, “What kind of god has all the answers at hand, yet offers them to only some petitioners….perhaps the ones who believe the right truth or worship the right god? Besides, what kind of god allows children and refugees to starve by the thousands, or tens of thousands when He or She could stop it? ”

Instead of petitioning that external ‘Heavenly Father’ to help us find our way, Rydall turns to the Divine God-spark, the soul-deep inheritance of our birth, that he believes already resides within us. It is, he claims, that bit of God-magic that enables our Emergence. Fueled by gratitude for the gifts we have been given, we are able to give away the treasures we possess….our love, caring, and kindness. 

Rather than turning to a remote, out-of-reach God for direction, Rydall insists that we….as spiritual beings who are living for the moment in a material world….have, with proper nurturing, the means to use our inherited gifts, the Divine within us, to fulfill our own destiny. I will confess that his logic rings true for me. Once again, I don’t expect everyone to agree.

So here I am, looking November right in the eye, trying to convince myself I ought to keep Becoming. More to the point, how should I use the time I have….time that seems more vulnerable than ever before? 

And of course I am not the only one asking those questions. Every one of us is living in that ‘limited time’ universe, aren’t we? I can’t speak for you. But I want to spend that time doing the right things ….hopefully emerging more like the person I was meant to be.

In that case, if I am to move beyond an ‘Ask and you shall receive’ God to follow the Divine-spark I have carried in me since birth, how will I know what path to take? I have, after all, arrived at this point in search of a reason to keep going in the face of what has the feel of an existential roadblock….a cancer diagnosis.

Thankfully, I can sense my late-life seeking coming into focus….as though I am finally asking the right questions. A good thing too. For all I know I may be running out of the time. (Though hopefully I can keep going for years.) 

In any case, I had better get to work, harvesting my remaining potential….and exploiting the life-possibilities I have yet to live out. Before I can do that, however, I need to get a better handle on what those ‘possibilities’ might be. Obviously it is time to continue that search.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022




       Where is the answer?

                  (April, 2017)

I am eighty-years old. Even with the best of health, my productive future is limited. Still, in the face of a cancer diagnosis and the vulnerability that suggests, I am anxious to make the best possible use of whatever time I have. 

Though it has taken me a while to reach this point, it feels like things are finally coming into focus. While the doctors and the disease are at war with each other, using me as their battlefield, there is only so much I can do on the medical front. In that case why not concentrate on things over which I have some control? It is time for me to address  a life that includes cancer.

I understand, of course, that it would help to have a reason to keep going in the face of my troubles….a reason beyond simply staying alive. If my only goal is to exist for another month or another year, what will I have to show for that a month or a year from now?

Truth be told, I have seldom thought in those terms. But the more I do, the more it seems that what matters most is not how many days I hang around, but rather the use I make of those days. 

But what would be the most productive use of that time? What worthwhile ‘something’ can an old fossil like me accomplish at this stage of the game? And if I don’t know, where should I turn to find those answers?

Bottom line….I want to spend my allotted time doing the right thing. Chances are that means returning to the spiritual side of life that I mentioned in the last chapter.


By now the gut-wrenching shock of a cancer diagnosis has worn off and my thoughts have turned to Living, rather than Dying. A couple months ago, while still bogged down in a post-surgery funk, my dark thoughts viewed the time I might have left as a very limited and very precious commodity. 

Now, with the first round of treatments behind me, my perspective has changed. The time I have left  (which I expect will be numbered in years, not months) remains just as precious, but hopefully my priorities are different. Let’s see if I can explain.

It seems that mankind, from the beginning of the species, has tried to identify and connect with the nebulous mystery of ‘Divine energy’….that hard-to-define ‘more’ which touches our lives in ways we struggle to express. Throughout recorded history, in every corner of every continent seers and shamen, gurus and mystics have created mythologies and sacred stories, cults and religions to better understand the mystery of the Divine.

Whatever explanation we accept as our personal answer, and whatever name we assign to it, I have said before that I believe there resides in each of us a bit of God-spark, a DNA-like gift of birth. That in turn is part of another great mystery….how the complex and complicated person we have become, including that Divine inheritance, could have been encapsulated in the microscopic bits of sperm and egg from which we emerged.

I have read, and perhaps you have too, that some folks believe our God-inheritance is linked to a companion possibility….the notion that our earthly incarnation includes a particular reason for our being….a ‘purpose’ that our time on earth is meant to accomplish. 

I find that possibility especially intriguing at this stage of late-life, as I cast about for the best way to use my remaining years. Do you suppose there is ‘something’ I ought to be doing, or at least trying….a purpose that was sent here with me?

I will admit that from time to time I have patted myself on the back for my self-judged virtues, congratulating myself for my occasional good deeds. (I tend to forget the not-so-good ones.) Those moments, however, certainly fall short of being a ’cosmic reason’ for my existence.

In fact I have always found the idea of a specific reason for my being hard to accept. It has the ring of a simplistic ‘churchy’ answer….with overtones of a micromanaging God. Truth to tell, I am not a God-fearing person. I make no secret of my belief in the Source, or Spirit, or God that dwells in me. But in my mind the presence of that Love-based essence is not something to be feared.

So for the last few weeks I have plodded along, looking for better answers. My gloomy diagnosis had me mired in a sometimes-doubting limbo ….until the night, a few weeks ago, when I lay in bed, letting my half-awake thoughts take me where they wanted. 

Apparently ‘where they wanted’ was what I now accept as a minor epiphany, which arrived in the form of a single word….one that I repeated to myself several times, to be sure it would not be swallowed and forgotten by a night’s sleep.


“Potential.” That is a fine word, isn’t it? I will admit I find it a bit ironic that in a world that longs for exact, succinct answers I am willing to accept something as wishy-washy as ‘potential’ to be the raw material from which to construct my reasons for moving ahead….a logical first step toward finding the ‘something’ that fits me.

Like I said before, the possibility of a single life ‘purpose’ is hard for me to wrap my head around. It sounds so concrete, denoting a certainty I have rarely felt. ‘Potential,’ on the other hand, has the ring of ‘what might be’….hinting at a range of possibilities that could set me on the right track. Beyond that, it is something I have experienced myself. I know a thing or two about potential. 

After all, we have four children, four living and breathing examples of individual potential. We knew from the beginning how different they were from each other. As they grew each of them exhibited his or her distinctive characteristics ….drawn to become themselves by exploiting their unique potential. 

The more I pondered that ‘potential’ notion the more it sounded like something worth exploring. Though it was rather late in the game, the notion of a reason to keep trying was coming into focus, arriving with a clarity that perhaps comes with age. 

By then I was following my long-held ‘Becoming’ rationale back to its roots….confirming the possibility of a Divine organizing spirit, my own God-spark if you will. Though I still struggle to understand what that means, I am less willing to consider my arrival at this time and place as a totally random event.

That in turn has me wondering. Are these simply the wishful thoughts of a tired old man trying to wring answers from a late-life crisis….wanting to know the best way to use his remaining time? Perhaps so. Yet I am persuaded that somewhere out there is a potential reason for me to keep going….a valid ‘true north’ by which to set my internal compass as I face a new and daunting challenge.

So, you might ask, what was it that helped cement my belated acceptance of a potential reason? Actually it was a book….authored by Derek Rydall, titled Emergence….which struck me as true. More than that it seemed to elaborate on my own primitive thoughts. 

Derek Rydall explains how what I call our ‘Becoming’ (which he labels ‘Emergence’) requires us to ‘give away’ the love, the kindness, and the caring we already possess. That is a logic that rings true for me.

I have long believed that even in my personal November, (at least I hope it is) I am still in the process of ‘Becoming.’ I have written whole books advocating that reality. Beyond that, it feels as though I still have time for another lap or two. 

Without knowing for sure where this latest obstacle is leading me, or whether my eighty-year old body is good for another year or another ten, I am determined to wring all the meaning I can from the years I am gifted.

True, the results of my future efforts will not look like the good old days. But hopefully my ‘trying’ will confirm that even in late-life I can reach down inside myself to set in motion another bit of the Divine energy that has kept me going this far. Perhaps Mr. Rydall is showing me how to do that. Hopefully I can explain his logic in the next chapter.     

Monday, November 21, 2022


Today’s post will be brief and to the point. It will also, unlike most of my blogs, include a homework assignment. But don’t let that put you off. I guarantee you will enjoy that part of your day. So let’s begin.


    The last lines of the very person memoir I wrote for our children are as follows………

“When the children grow up and move away,

      We’ll be glad for the life we’ve had,

                    And we’ll remember when.” 

                                                                    Alan Jackson                                                                                                                                     



The composer’s name, Alan Jackson, may or may not ring a bell with you. If you dip your toe into Country Music you will know him. If not I urge you, I’m pleading with you, to stay with me for the next minute or two.

I have spent more than a decade filling these pages with what I consider the truth of our October Years. Yet no matter what I have said, or how I said it, I will never express late-life reality better than Alan Jackson does in your homework assignment. Whether or not you like the music or his singing, it seems to me the message is just right.

I happen to believe that what you are about to hear is worth sharing with your friends and family ……no matter what their age……but especially those who can ‘Remember When.’ Beyond that, I sincerely hope that you can relate to some or all of the feelings he expresses in his lyrics.

With that……let’s move on to your homework. I happen to favor my index finger. But perhaps your pinky works best for you. In any case, however you choose to do it, I invite you to click your cursor on (THIS LINK) and take a moment to ‘Remember When.’ 

Sunday, November 20, 2022


                     CHAPTER 3

         It’s Time to Move Ahead

                                (March, 2017)

Most of us have spent a lifetime learning to avoid, or at least ignore, possibilities we would rather not deal with. For some of us that includes the fact of death. I know there have been times when I danced around that uncomfortable given, even as I knew that I, like everyone, will at some time come face to face with that harsh reality.

And now here it is, right in front of me. At least it might be. The irony of my present situation is that at this early stage it is not a painful, debilitating disease that has me stressed, but instead dark and nagging mind-pictures of what this problem of mine might become. 

Though I have never thought of it in that way before, my new dilemma includes hints of a different scenario….a sort of psychological warfare. Though there is no doubting the cancer diagnosis, I feel fine except for the way my weekly therapy treatments are wearing me down….the expected result of another sort of warfare, bacterial in nature, being waged inside me.

But at the same time I am learning that even without the pain and discomfort of a more advanced cancer, the worry and fear that accompany such an intimidating diagnosis are enough to create their own unsettling form of distress.

Too often we allow the mention of cancer to carry an unspoken connotation of a death sentence, though we know in this day of modern medicine that is increasingly not the case. Still, learning that one is hosting such an unwelcome intruder is bound to have a powerful emotional impact.

On a physical level the truth is that beyond providing the battleground for their continuing therapeutic combat, I have little control over the maverick cancer cells that have become a part of me. 

Instead, I am left with fearful premonitions that sometimes dominate my thoughts. Until, that is, I force myself to realize that as long as I concentrate on the ‘Dying’ part of LIVING WITH DYING I will never get past those dark times. It is, I tell myself, time to focus on ‘Living.’

Hopefully the internal resources I have cultivated over the years will help me move past those depressing moments and deal with what comes next.



Predictably, my first reaction to the doctor’s blunt diagnosis had been to focus on the down side. After all, I might be facing the real deal, perhaps for all the marbles. What was the most appropriate response to that sort of dire prospect? When I finally calmed my distracted mind-chatter long enough to ask that question, I found myself turning inward….hoping to find the reinforcement I needed to deal with the emotional side of my disease.

Truth to tell, I have been there before, seeking that same elusive help in times of more mundane crisis, the sort that everyone of us faces in the course of our lifetime. Now, however, my overactive imagination had me thinking in terms far beyond ‘mundane’ challenges. Truth to tell, I was in serious need of renewed hope.

I had spent a lifetime creating my personal understanding of what life is like. In one way or another we all do that. After all, the concerns we deal with are universal. 

Yet now, in the face of new, unyielding questions, how could I be sure my personal conclusions were adequate? No matter how confident I was in my stumbling answers, the fact remained that never once had they been tested by the harsh reality of life’s ultimate circumstances ….not the way they might be by my latest dilemma.

How could I know if my fragile answers would suffice? 


I soon realized that my muddled thoughts were leading me in circles. It was time to move beyond those ‘fragile answers’ and seek a connection with something more substantial. More to the point, I needed to integrate that ‘more substantial’ part of me into the unsettling real-life events that were invading my world. 

For most of my adult life my personal connection to that ‘more substantial’ part of me….the divine instinct which I accept as very real, has been through prayer. I suppose it is that way for most of us. After all, prayer, in one form or another, is as old as our species. The range and scope of the ways mankind has devised to connect with and hopefully influence the Divine source it calls “God” is truly amazing.

But of course prayer is a human activity….by, for, and about the person offering his or her prayer. No matter how we envision the God we are praying to, it is hard to imagine that He, She, or It requires our prayerful input, no matter how heartfelt or elaborate it might be. 

More to the point, it might be argued that for all their other virtues our prayers, on average, are not all that persuasive. If an actual ‘prayer score keeping’ was possible, I’m guessing we would find that most of our stumbling prayers go unanswered when measured by our selfish, all-too-human intent. 

The fact is, we pray for our own very personal reasons….to acknowledge our reliance on something beyond ourselves, hoping to receive the favors we are seeking, in the form we ask for….and sometimes for no other reason than the way it makes us feel when we connect with our Source.

I plead guilty to that on all counts. I think of prayer as a hoped-for union with the Divine that resides in me. I envision it as an internal dialog, where I….(1) hope to intuit the Divine will, (2) give thanks for all I have been given, (3) express my intent to be an instrument for turning the potential I have been gifted into a worthy result, and finally, (4) to remind myself that love is the greatest gift, to give and receive.

Beyond that I have no religious formulas or liturgical forms in mind. My prayers are not intended for a God who hides ‘up there’ behind a curtain, pulling levers, deciding who will be favored and who will not. Rather, I am inclined to turn inward, seeking the Divine that I believe resides there.

You see, by this time of life my admittedly amateurish soul-searching has convinced me that I, like all of us, arrived on this earthly stage with everything I needed to become the person I was meant to be. Whether or not I have made use of that potential is a different matter….the product of my own free will and willingness to try. This is probably a good time to mention again that I don’t necessarily expect you to agree with my religious take on life.

In any case, I know that I have squandered much of my inherited potential along the way. Too often I turned left when I should have turned right. For too long I was busy with other matters….concentrating on grand schemes and great adventures….places to see and things to do, escapades that would hopefully confirm my daring-do and make me feel alive. Truth is, it took me longer than necessary to stumble onto what I have come to accept as the right path.

And along the way my priorities have changed. In the face of new circumstances and what I hope are more-mature thoughts, I am less inclined to worry about ‘daring-do,’ and more interested in making the most of my remaining years….using that time wisely, wringing all the meaning (I call it ‘Love.’) I can from a lifetime of events, relationships, and memories. 

Those are the concerns that have me longing for the deeper understanding I hope to find in what I am told is my soul. Is there, as I want to believe, a sacred spark of God-stuff residing there? If so, will I know it if I find it? And finally, no matter how I imagine what I am looking for and whatever name I give it, can it sense my pleading prayers and respond?

So here I am, once again in pursuit of ‘my spiritual side.’ I have tried that before, you know. We’ve all done that in our own ways. But what I found there in times past was probably not enough to arm me for what I am about to face. That in itself is not so surprising, given the half-hearted extent of my earlier efforts. 

What I need now is a new and more effective means of bringing that soul-based potential to the surface. Instead of waiting for a far-off God to aim His sometimes-fickle favors in my direction, I see my challenge as facilitating the emergence of what is already inside me, waiting to be liberated….to carry on with the life I am meant to live. Can I do that? 

If so, the question is….no matter how long the fates give me, how can I make the best use of that time? I tell myself that I ought to be more concerned about misusing the time I have, than running out of time. In a word, I want to believe that I am still ‘Becoming,’ even in November and beyond.


Thursday, November 17, 2022



             A Not-So-Surprising Reaction

                              (March, 2017)

 A cancer diagnosis! What did that mean for the two of us and the life we were living? After sixty years together, where would it take us?

  How would you react to such news? Fact is, most of us have little practice making those kinds of decisions. So again, please be aware that what follows is my response. Chances are yours would be very different

  The medical diagnosis had been rendered. I had begun the prescribed, once-a-week immunology treatments. As advertised, they were wearing me down….a little bit at first, more than that after a three or four weeks. Unfortunately, their overall effectiveness on the cancer that had invaded my bladder would not be known for weeks, perhaps even months. It was an act of informed faith, dealing with the irritating side effects in hopes the treatments would help.  

  Actually, by the time the initial shock had worn off I was not all that concerned about the physical effects of cancer on my body. Other than the treatment side effects, for the most part I felt fine. But at the same time I was learning a different, altogether new lesson….what you might call “Living With Cancer - 2.0.” 

  You see, in the early stages, when the disease itself is producing little or no discomfort, cancer’s most profound impact, no matter there it resides in one’s body, is likely to be emotional. That’s right. Even when there is no pain, simply knowing that cancer is present, perhaps growing and spreading, is enough to produce very real emotional distress.

  That was certainly true for me. The fact of its presence was weighing on me, and I needed to deal with that. In the end my particular means of coping was perhaps not all that surprising. 

  After all, I had spent years creating stories about Tanner seniors dealing with their late-life trials. By then it seemed to me that using my own circumstances as the basis for a new story was a natural way of approaching this new ordeal.

 The idea I had outlined to Roma was simple enough. I wanted to consider, then write about the turmoil that had captured our thoughts and our lives….while hopefully making sense of what was waiting ahead. I wanted to explore the course of a life, my own life, as it faced the prospect of death.


  So why was this happening to me….this blatant threat to my very being? Was a vengeful God extracting the price of my existential failings? Or was a lifetime of Karma being called to account?

 At best, the challenge I faced was likely to be a long, drawn-out ordeal, taking on the form of a new lifestyle, requiring the living of one’s life in new and different ways. In that case what would be an appropriate response when the emotionally-laden November clouds, the ones I had not been able to chase away, continued to gather, turning darker by the day? What would it look like….a mature, eighty year-old response to such a threat?

 As I said earlier, beyond the remnants of the original exploratory surgery, and the cumulative effects of the weekly therapy treatments, I had no distressing physical symptoms. Truth be told, if not for a fortuitous combination of alert doctoring and my wife’s divinely-guided intuition (I called it ‘nagging’ at the time) the cancer might have continued its stealthy invasion for months before being detected. 

 But now, instead of physical distress I was dealing with a more-upsetting awareness….in the form of churning mind-dramas I could not turn off….emotional products of an over-active imagination. Day after day I was being reminded that my earthly incarnation was subject to well-defined limits. 

 More to the point, I was coming face to face with the unsubtle reality that thoughts of cancer, or death, or anything else that threatened to end my being, are accompanied by mental and emotional impacts….along with the physical implications they represents.

 Of course, in one way or another all of us must face the fact of it….the unsettling reality that there is only one way out of our present circumstance.  As sure as we are born, the mortal, physical part of our being will in time pass away. We will die. No matter how we chose to portray that existential truth, there was no escaping the fact of it.

 Scholars attribute the human impulse to seek religious answers to that unyielding truth. Still, until that moment in the doctor’s office, listening as he rendered his blunt prognosis, I had traveled eighty years without being seriously sidetracked by the humbling end-of-life possibilities I was suddenly facing. 

 Yet even as those terminal realities played out in my overly-imaginative mind, I was aware of moments when a surprising calm seemed to push those dire thoughts aside. During those brief interludes I sensed that my concerns did not have to be framed in such depressing terms. Instead, I felt a composed curiosity steering me in a new direction, seeking a more fruitful way to face what awaited me, now and in the future….however long that may be.

 I have long considered myself one of the lucky ones. I connected with my soul-mate early on. Together we have spent sixty-some years learning what that meant….creating a family that would make anyone proud, living well, while seeing more of the world than anyone had a right to expect. 

 Why then, so late in the game, after all those miles and the good times we had shared, was I only then beginning to accept that the last, and in some ways most important, part of my life-journey was stretching out before me? Having dwelt on that reality for a while, I decided that I wanted my responses to be the right ones.

 My primary challenge, the one over which I actually had some control, was not the cancer cells I cannot see or direct. Instead, it was the need to create a way to move past the debilitating uncertainty of what awaited me. Hopefully that was something I could do.

 More to the point, I realized that the final chapters of my story, and the drama they are sure to involve, would not take place only in the material setting that surrounded me….the physical world where I had always assumed my life had been lived. 

 Instead, I was coming to understand that important bits of my ‘new’ life would be played out in a different, but very-real internal universe….the space between my ears….where heart, soul, and mind combine to create the spiritual dimension that resides in each of us. 

 There, consciousness and awareness combine to have us thinking our thoughts and acting our actions. There too, if left unattended, unbridled fear and worry are able to short circuit even the best of intentions. That is where my battle for a more productive future would be waged. 

 There were, of course, a multitude of ways to reach out for that internal connection….emotional, mental, and spiritual currents I must navigate in hopes of contacting the Divine. You may not be surprised to learn that my understanding of that process was different than what many folks believe. 

 From the beginning of this adventure I had cautioned myself to keep things as simple as possible. This was not the time to retreat into elaborate philosophical theories or dramatic religious interventions….neither of which have appealed to me in less stressful times. Rather, I was leaning toward what I accepted as the experienced, soul-deep truth I had come to trust. That seemed to me the best path to my personal ‘Becoming.’

 As I continue I will try to explain.