Category Archives: Let’s Talk Writing Blog

Talk About Walkabout


Among the first people of Australia, young persons on the threshold of adulthood set out utterly alone into the forbidding and uninhabited regions of the continent.  One makes one’s way relying on one’s wits, discovering along the path one’s previously unknown inner assets.  One confronts one’s limits, and defines one’s identity.  A walkabout is a test and a quest.

A walkabout is an apt metaphor for the writing task.  Writers, too, set out into the wilderness alone; they struggle to set down on paper the thoughts rattling around their brains.  Sometimes in the process one stumbles into self-knowledge along the way.  No one knows where this expedition will take us or what resources it will require.  We’re on our own  —  into the wild realms of farthest fantasy, or into the deepest, inmost regions of our own hearts.  The writing walkabout tests our spirit’s mettle for withstanding the rigors of our passage; it is a soul-search in quest of an elusive verbal art.

If life is a journey, then we all are on a walkabout.  We are always crossing under the liminal lintel that marks our transit into a new reality; we are perpetually on the verge of transformation into new levels of maturity.  With every step we move into the unknown and into the sphere of the Mystery that animates our Universe and our writing  art.  Walkabout: A Journal of Writing and Spirituality seeks to put this test and quest into words.

Welcome to Walkabout.

Celebrate Little Victories


Celebrate Little Victories

The Essence

Living a satisfying life means recognizing and rejoicing in the small successes.

Just Do It

Watching a toddler learning a new skill provides a living definition of delighting in small achievements. Over and over the child carefully places block atop block building a tower three or four high. When the final block is positioned, a look of wonder and surprise fills the child’s eyes. Hands clap – applause for the amazing feat of successful stacking. The process is repeated many times, but every time there is the same pleasure in accomplishment.

When the tower topples, there is still astonishment. The stacking continues – piling or falling, each attempt a fresh gratification and a renewed celebration.

What was your most recent “little victory”? How did you celebrate?

Imagine That

Take a sheet of drawing paper and a pencil, crayon, or marker. Make a line across the sheet. Pause and examine the line. Identify, at least, three things about the line that intrigue you. (“I like the funny little bump over here” . . . “and the way the line gets fat all of a sudden” . . . “Oh, and look at the surprising swoop at the end.”) !
Now make another line crossing the first and repeat the same draw-pause-find-three-things process. Continue drawing using your implement in as many ways as you can until the page is filled and you feel finished. Now find three or more things that please you.

Breaking It Down

Very few persons ever have the chance to do something “really big,” something “world changing,” but all of us have a hundred little victories to celebrate every day. Instead of celebrating, we discount them or ignore them. “Oh, that’s nothing,” we say. In fact, we should be congratulating ourselves for another little victory. !
You give a compliment that makes the recipient beam – a little victory. You cross an item off your to-do list – another little victory. You finally get tab A into slot B – more victory. No matter what the size, we need to celebrate our accomplishments and fill our days with satisfaction for what we have achieved.

These small celebration act like emotional fuel; they feed the soul and color our perceptions of the world. We become more energized and optimistic. Everything seems more doable and more worthwhile. Daily responsibilities are less onerous. Each little victory celebrated is an infusion of hope, power, and possibility.

The neighborhood projects chair of the Service Club had just finished his monthly report when one of the members said, “That’s all well and good, but we need to think bigger. We need to work on developing affordable housing for the west side.”

“That’s right,” another member chimed in. “We’re just dealing with one piddling problem at a time.”

The neighborhood projects chair smiled but said nothing. The housing proposal went no further. Meanwhile seventeen senior citizens were regularly transported to the grocery store and their doctors’ appointments, a new, young mother got some needed baby clothes, and two hungry families got emergency groceries. Just little victories but vitally important to the persons involved.

Little victories are small but not trivial. They constitute much of the joy of our lives. We are given the chance to be the kid on the beach tossing starfish back into the sea. Each throw is a little victory for us . . . and makes a big huge difference to the starfish.

What’s Next?

If you want to know more about little victories, learn from Sabina. She is an eighty-three-year old crippled with scoliosis who also happens to be mentally challenged. She takes great pleasure in trying new things, even though they are sometimes scary. When she learned to play kick-ball and actually kicked it, she shouted, “I did it!” Each time she successfully maneuvers down the narrow steps of the van, she exclaims, “I made it!” For Sabina life is good because it is filled with many celebrations every day.

Look for the little victories in your day and celebrate them. Think to yourself after every accomplishment, no matter how minor, “I did that” . . . “I made that happen.” If you keep track of your little victories for just one day, you may be astonished. The successes add up and accumulate. You are making a difference in your world, one little victory at a time.

1 – 1 = 1,000,000

From time to time we will be posting three Steps from the Write Spirit Store that you can sample and use. You can see if you would like to buy others as guides for your spiritual growth. Explore these three and let us know what you think. If you like what you find, consider purchasing others as downloads. Summaries of the Steps can be found under the Introducing the Steps tab. Enjoy!

1 – 1 = 1,000,000

The Essence
We don’t need to change everything. Changing just one thing is enough for now.

Just Do It
Choose just one change that you believe will improve your life. You can add something new or throw something old away. Do not worry too much about selecting the “right” item. Just choose one, and then do it.

Imagine That
The journey of a lifetime begins with a single step. Read Robert Frost’s “Stopping by a Wood on a Snowy Evening.”

Breaking It Down
It is far too easy to imagine that just because I can’t change everything, I can’t change anything, but it’s not so. Changing things means either adding or subtracting. That notion is what the title of this step means. Add one thing to your life and/or take one thing away, and the results can be very surprising indeed.

But which thing? What shall I add (or take away)? There are two important answers. The first is, it doesn’t much matter. Making any change makes room for more changes. It’s like standing with a ball on the top of a high hill and pushing the ball gently over the last level place. In no time, the ball is rolling merrily down the hill. So it is with the changes in our lives. Make one, and the door will open for making another, but we don’t have to think about all the possible changes beyond the first. One is enough to get the ball rolling.

Which change? The other important answer is that deep inside yourself you already know. There is some attractive something right before your eyes if you just get still and allow yourself to see it. Or there is some burden you have been carrying that you have long wanted to let go. A habit perhaps, a leftover promise from your past that you no longer believe in. If you are carrying a load like this, you already know what it is. Think about just letting it go.

What’s Next?
You might make two lists, perhaps on opposite sides of the same page. Title the list on the left “Dreams I Have Caught a Glimpse Of.” Title the list on the right “Rocks in My Backpack That I Want to Unload.”

Take a deep breath and start writing. Don’t worry about saying something “wrong.” These are only words, and no one need ever see them but you. Try for ten to twenty items on each side of the paper.

Then, when you are ready, give your lists a second look. Some of the items may seem silly to you. Perhaps they represent old fantasies or momentary frustrations. But at least three or four items in each list will jump out strongly and call for your attention. These are the ones to attend

Then decide what you will do.

Save your lists. They will surely be worth coming back to.


The War That Made Happiness Wait: Chapter 2


Dear Writer Friend,

Here is the second chapter for your reading pleasure. Remember the original purpose of this blog is for you to either use this short story as a prompt or share a sample of your own historical fiction by replying to this blog.


The War That Made Happiness Wait

By Bob Young

Chapter 2

A tear snuck out of my eye. I couldn’t say which emotion drove out that tear. When it dribbled onto my

cheek, he noticed it and quickly pulled his hand back to re-bandage it.

“Say now, I wasn’t going for sympathy…,”

“I’m sorry, Dennis. I’m just happy you weren’t hurt more badly,” I said quickly trying to regain my

composure and trying not to embarrass him further.

“You can still do almost everything with that hand,” Abbie said taking over for me.

“I should be taking over as a full-fledged baker in a month as I get my strength up.”

“Betts is there to back you up.”

“She’s been great as I tire out in the afternoon,” he offered picking up on Abbie’s attempts to calm me

down. “She was the employee who didn’t gawk at my hand all day.”

“From what I heard she was too busy gawking at your upper body strength,” Abbie quipped. We

laughed both blushing. Besides you are the youngest adult male in all of Greens Park who isn’t married.”

“So that’s why all the women in town look at me that way,” Dennis said, the light dawning.

“There are no eligible men,” I finally squeaked.

“Why do you think we asked you out for a beer your first work day,” Abbie added.

“You’re trying to make everyone think one of you is my girlfriend?” Dennis asked.

“That’s the idea,” I said sheepishly.

“Do you already have a girlfriend?” I asked boldly.

“I had one back in Hawaii, but getting sent home ended that.”

“We’ll be your social life now that you’re home. Our drinking group used to be much larger. Our four

guys are serving all over the world.” I explained.

“Four guys?”

“Yes, four, although none of them had the courage to take us on as a steady girlfriend,” Abbie said.


“They’re more afraid of us than the Axis forces,” Abbie teased.

We all laughed.

“How about we keep everyone in town guessing? I’ll take turns holding hands with both of you when

we are out,” Dennis suggested.

Abbie and I roared at that idea. We finished beer number two and started three. We spent the rest of the

evening filling him in on all of the changes in Greens Park since he had enlisted. The conversation

relaxed into a more familiar tone since the ice had been broken on the critical issues between sailor and

home front girls. Abbie and I seemed to relax into our old beer drinking group mode with Dennis easily

slipping into the ‘friend-who’s-a-boy’ category.

When the three of us got up from the bar to go home, Dennis made a fuss out of taking Abbie’s hand

with his good hand. When he did, we laughed out loud and were still in comic spasms as we hit the


He walked me home first. They left me as he walked Abbie home. She never told me if he kissed her

goodnight. I was afraid to ask. Truth be told, I couldn’t wait until it was my turn to have him hold my


That was the rude new reality. Dennis drove an emotional wedge between Abbie and me in my head.

Abbie acted the way she always had. She talked incessantly and told me everything, I thought. When the

old crowd of men were still with us, we talked about them behind their backs all the time and decided

together who each of us would try to push into a deeper relationship. It seemed the same with Dennis but

Abbie never offered a plan of how she would make him hers. She stuck to her lament that there were no

dateable men in Greens Park now that the war was in full swing.

The fact that she ignored him made me afraid to talk about wanting to date Dennis. Every time Dennis

walked away holding her hand, I had to fight the feeling to follow them.

But weeks went by and no one made any kind of move. We got boring and the three of us looked like

we were just regulars at Connie’s.

Dennis was functioning as a baker at 100% after three months. He would allow me to help him move

pies and iced mini-cakes only so he could harass me about something. He didn’t need any physical help.

He just seemed to enjoy a few minutes of bar talk to break up the day.

About six months after he showed up at work, he stopped out front on his way home while I was

waiting on customers.

“I’m craving sea food. Let’s go to Trainers tonight.”

“Sure,” I said giving him a dirty look for social talk in front of customers.

“Is that your boyfriend?” an old lady said grinning broadly showing me a ravaged smile.

“He wishes I was his girlfriend,” I said sarcastically. The small gathering of customers laughed out

loud. Dennis stuck his tongue out at me and disappeared through the front door of the shop.

I was putting on my coat in the hallway by the shop’s service door a couple of hours later. Dennis

stepped in.

“Hi, Betts. Hungry?”

“I’m always hungry for Trainers.”

“Good.” He grabbed my hand with his bad hand.

That was a first.

Even though that hand was half gone, he had a warm, firm hold on my hand and the fact that he had

used his bad hand gave me an emotional charge.

Abbie wasn’t in the car.

It was just us. I kept my mouth shut waiting to see just what the hell was going on. I watched him drive

the car. He had installed a knob on the steering wheel to give his bad hand something easier to grab. He

looked comfortable. He asked me what I would order. Who my favorite teacher was at Grant High

School. How long I had lived in Greens Park. He didn’t remember seeing me before coming back to

work at the bakery. I told him that was because he was ancient. It would have been illegal for him to look

at me when he was in high school. He took the kidding good-naturedly. Actually, he was only five years

older than me and I was curious why I hadn’t noticed him around town when we were kids.

We pulled into the parking lot and he took my hand again as we walked into the restaurant. They sat us

in a little booth set up for two. We ordered.

“I want to start my own bakery some day,” he said when the waitress was gone.

“Really? Where would you put it?”

“I was thinking out on the north side of town. I think the town is going to grow toward Stony Pt and the

bakery will be right where the new homes will be.”

“Interesting. I’ve never thought how things will change after the war.”

“I really don’t know the best place except not downtown.”

“Sure. Not near Lauhoff’s.”

“By the time I’ve saved up enough to rent a space, the war will have been over for some time and where

to put it will be clear.”

“I’d apply to work in your bakery,” I said with a smile.

“I’d hire you in a second.”

“That’s nice of you to say,” I said.

“Not just nice, it’s really clear you could manage a business. You’re tireless and sharp.”

“Manage…?” I asked.

“You know everything about a bakery from the workroom to the display cases to caring for customers.

Especially customers.”

“That’s very generous. So, I have the job?” I said teasing him.

“Yes…,” he said more softly and very warmly. He waited a beat and said, “You’re hired.”

I looked at him trying to see behind his eyes because I instantly sensed something else was going on.

“Here are your scallops,” the waitress said.

“Thanks,” Dennis said.

“And butterflied shrimp for you.”

“Oh, that looks good,” I said.

We ate.

It was a great meal. While we enjoyed it, we described our families, what they did, and where everyone

was around the country. He described how beautiful Hawaii was and that if he could afford it he would

like to visit there in peace time. We shared other dream vacation spots each of us had.

We talked about what it was like to live with our parents, which we both were doing. We were thankful

but both longed to live on our own.

We topped off the meal with a slice of cheesecake and then he drove me home.

“Could I take you to dinner again soon?” he asked me as we walked up to my parent’s door.

“I’d like that but we can just go out for barbeque next time.”

“Sounds perfect.” He reached his bad hand up to my cheek and gently caressed me. I put my hand on

the back of his, impulsively holding it against my cheek longer than he probably intended looking steadily

into his eyes. After a moment, I turned my head and planted a kiss into the now healed ‘palm’ of what

was left of his hand. I looked back at him and his face blushed and his eyes rimmed with tears. He took a

step closer and slipped his arms around me and gently kissed my mouth. I felt his tears fall on my face.

“Good night, Betty.”

“Good night, Dennis.”

I watched him walk to his car. He waved and got into the driver’s seat and drove away.


WriteSpirit – A Beginning Step – Lesson One: Getting Started With Your Writing


WriteSpirit – A Beginning Step

WriteSpirit is the beginning of a comprehensive writing curriculum, but how you use it is completely up to you. Our hope is that folks will bring their desires, needs, and abilities; and then we will create together learning designed especially for us. If you are already accomplished and need something more advanced than what is currently here, please say so by leaving us a comment.

Our special intention is to help folks grow spiritually by means of becoming better writers, but if the writing part is all that matters to you, you can let the spirituality part go.

We suspect that many folks will want to start at the beginning. If that’s where you are, your first question might be “Why write?” Four big reasons. Because writing . . .

– uncovers and increases the writer’s knowledge base
– requires and develops a high level of thinking skills
– insists upon and promotes the writer’s individual responsibility
– lasts

If you’re a reluctant or very inexperienced writer, please read closely this paragraph and the next paragraph. You might have a fundamental misunderstanding. You might believe that the most important aspect of writing is the end product: the story, book, poem, film script, or whatever is printed on the page or appears on the screen.

Not so. What matters most about writing is the process that it is. What matters even more than the result is the actual doing of writing. The major benefits of writing are all realized well before publication occurs. Those benefits are, of course, in that list you just read.

How does one write?

We’re not talking about the physical implements. It doesn’t much matter if one uses a lap-top, a pencil, or a sterling silver fountain pen. The “how” that interests us is how does one most efficiently and effectively engage in the writing process?

The first step is to break that process into its necessary parts. There are five stages in the writing process: creation, shaping, writing, revision, and editing. The movement between and among these stages is both sequential and recursive. Sequential means that the order of the steps listed two sentences ago is also the order in which they are engaged. First one creates, then shapes, then writes, and so on.

But the movement is also recursive. One does not only begin at the beginning and move forward. One also backtracks and circles around. We will elaborate on that recursiveness later, but first two very important issues need attention.

Good News for Beginning Writers

The success of all communication depends upon two “meta-requirements,” passion and truth. Passion includes emotion, but it is more than emotion. A more adequate synonym is “conviction.” My passion is whatever is so important to me that I am willing – indeed, eager – to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Passion is partial when it is focused upon a particular topic (gardening, stamp collecting, dance, raising children, and the list goes on), a particular purpose (to cure a disease, promote peace, build a loving marriage, increase the use of green energy, and so forth), or a particular audience (African American middle schoolers, residents of nursing homes, political leaders, one’s children, and of course the list goes on). But passion becomes complete when it is focused upon all three.

If you can’t get started on your writing, spend some effort seeking your passion. As always, write it down. When you are clearer about your deep convictions, you will find it much easier to share what you care about.

Truth is the second meta-requirement of effective communication. Truth includes the facts, but it is more than facts. Indeed, if you have truly found your passion, you will do whatever is required to root that passion in truth. You will do whatever is necessary to find the right words to address this audience, for this purpose, about this topic.

A-P-T: Audience, Purpose, Topic: the Foundation of All Real Writing

We must first uproot a habit you may have acquired in fifth grade. Most of the writing we do in school is almost always centered on topic. You were either told what to write about or it was your first response when given the assignment: “But I don’t know what to write about!”

Topic is the single word for writing content, but topic is not the only important issue. The success of all real writing rests upon three legs. Topic is one of them. The other two are audience and purpose.

Purpose means the reason the writing is being done. All real writing intends to accomplish something. Some part of the world will be different because this writing has happened. Bringing about this difference is the writing’s purpose.

“Audience” is not a synonym for “reader.” Audience means the people to whom this writing is directed. Who reads the writing is an accident that happens after the writing is published. Who the audience is, is an intention that happens while the writing is being shaped.

With academic writing the topic is often assigned. The real purpose (no matter what the teacher said) is usually to get a good grade, and the real audience is the teacher. In real writing, however, the questions are more complicated. In real writing, the writer herself is responsible for answering all three questions. The creation and shaping stages lead the writer to answer the three basic questions: Who is my audience? What is my purpose? What is my topic?

The Writing Funnel

It may help to think of the writing process as a funnel. The wide end is the beginning of creation, and the process ends with the final editing.


Much of the writing we are going to do in WriteSpirit is entries in our spiritual journals. The main purpose of a spiritual journal is to help the writer grow spiritually. The primary audience is the writer’s own self.

So let’s write something. If you simply read the words that follow this paragraph, you are not going to gain much benefit. You must actually do everything the words say, so that when the section is finished, you will have acquired the skills and knowledge necessary for what is coming next: The Creation Stage.

Put something down. Anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single word, a phrase, an entire paragraph, or even a non-verbal illustration. Turn off your critical judgment. This is not the time to evaluate; it is time to create.




Thomas writes, “I think we all have experienced a time in our lives when some tragic event has set us back on our haunches and left us gasping for air. My recent example was the death of my dear friend David Trembley, who was the author of much of the material represented in this site. I found the exercise, “Liminality” of great solace and support during my early grief. Even now, when rereading it, I find it to be helpful as I work through other changes and transitions in my life.” Here it is!


The Essence

Liminality is a transition state outside and beyond our sense of the ordinary. It is like a doorway which stands between two distinct locales but has no real territory of its own.

Just Do It

In the bowels of the field house, the graduates are lining up. They help one another make last minute adjustments to robes, hoods, and mortar boards. The black academic gowns make everyone in look alike. The graduates occupy a peculiar in-between status as they begin to procession – neither students any longer nor yet fully fledged scholars. “Commencement” we call it. The ceremony is a rite of passage, a doorway through which they pass from the halls of academia out into the world. They move across the stage receiving their diplomas along with a new identity and a new definition of themselves. It will be the task of the commencement speaker to send the new graduates off into life inspired to occupy their new place in the world. ! Recall a powerful experience of being “betwixt and between.” Write it down.

Imagine That

Choose an object that includes open spaces as part of its construction; a metal folding chair is a good example. First look at the chair in terms of its component shapes. Next look at the open, or “negative,” spaces which are also part of its construction. Draw these negative spaces; let them define the chair without ever actually drawing the material parts — seat, back, legs. When you have finished, take time to appreciate your work.

Breaking It Down

Stand on the threshold of a doorway. As you stand, you are both in and out – in one place and out of another; both coming and going But since you are standing still you are also neither in nor out, neither entering nor leaving. Liminality is that strange in-between state of both/and . . . neither/nor . . . at the same time. It is a social situation that exists amid ordinary interactions. The most easily recognized liminal states are those that mark life transitions.

Funerals are solemn observances of the inevitable transition of death. Our daily routines are interrupted and special rituals are followed. We wear special clothes, often black; others care for us by bringing us food; we occupy a special place called a funeral home; our time is not structured in its normal way but is configured to meet hours of “visitation.” Friends and family convene to speak special words of condolence and eulogy. There are long-established patterns of tradition which dictate our activities: the wake, the funeral service, the interment, and the ceremonial meal after. The entire period is a passageway conducting us from the time before to the time after the death. The power of liminality acts to redefine us: I was the eldest child, but now I am an orphaned adult.

Every liminal occasion is an opportunity for change. We move through one identity and set of meanings to another. Forgoing liminal observances leads to a spiritual deficit. In current culture it is common to hear, “All that traditional junk doesn’t matter.” But every liminal event invites us into reflection about who we are and might be, how we belong to and with others and in society, and what were our old definitions and what will be the new ones shaping us now. Rites and traditions connected with the liminal events of our lives – weddings, funerals, baptisms, and so on – have developed as ways for us to process our experience and reassess our place in our families and society. Passing through liminality means stepping into a changed identity and life.

What’s Next?

We all have doorway events of liminality that denote and mark important changes in our lives. Paying attention to the underlying liminality will make the event more memorable and meaningful. The artist Rene’ Magritte once painted the portrait of a man by showing him defined by the space around him. The background wall is pierced by the man’s outline, so that the viewer sees blue sky and fluffy white clouds beyond. Liminal events work on us in a similar way, shaping and defining us by impinging their powers on us.

Think about how the next doorway of your life invites you to make successful transition. When liminality is expressed through traditional rites and observances, our spiritual awareness and understanding are heightened. We are helped to know the deep meanings of our existence. The birthday celebrates the growth and change of the kindergartener that was to the first-grader who is coming to be. The wedding ritualizes the joining of two separate persons into a synergy of newness and potential. In this way, all the liminal events of our lives shape us and move us from then to now, from old to new. If we emphasize liminal power, we stop going through the motions of mindless ritual. When we co-operate with liminality, we heighten the significance of turning points in our lives by infusing them with meaning.

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain. Love lives again. — John M.C. Crum, 1928


Green Blade Rising: Reflections on Grief and Belief

These little essays are not in chronological order. It may, indeed, seem that they are not in any order at all. Whatever logic of arrangement there is, is intuitive and idiosyncratic. Since the organizing principle is unknown even to myself, you may feel free to read at random. I wrote them because I discovered that there is much material on the “death and dying” process, but very little about what comes after for those who survive to live on into grief and grieving. Material from a first-person point of view is rarer still. What does exist tends to be from a clinical point of view, written flor counselors and clergy who deal with the bereaved.
It was healing for me to write my experiences after David’s first death on August 4 and those that followed throughout his week first in ICU and then hospice and his second death on August 9. David and I were married for thirty-five years, so the hole his death made in the fabric of ray being was extensive. He was a gifted teacher, writer, poet, and pastor. He had many abilities, but his biggest gift was the ability to love all kinds of persons, and love them well – including me. I rniss him more than I can ever say.
My intention was more than simply journaling, I was hoping to create “provocations” for others who were in the midst of their own mourning. I have, therefore, employed a phenomenological approach. Meaning, I have recorded my lived impressions, emotional reactions, sensory inputs as I experienced them as faithfully as I am able (the “Grief’ selections), and then, afterward, reflected analytically on the inherent meanings (the “Belief ‘ portions). My interpretive framework is that of a Christian clergyperson, but I hope that those who do not share my particular biases may find here something useful for understanding their own grief and encouragement for growing through and beyond their grieving.
Each entry has four components. The first is an account “in the moment.” The second is a set of “prompts” which are intended to elicit the reader’s own reflection and action. T’hird, because poetry is the condensed and powerful speech of the spirit, I have included a piece of poetry written from inside my grief. Finally, each segment concludes with an analy’tical discourse on some of the themes raised in the personal narrative section. In a small scope, I have thus sought to address heart, spirit, and mind.
A word of explanation about some of the poetry – certain pieces are inspired by the work of Kenneth Goldsmith, an advocate of oofound” poetry. Goldsmith views poetry in much the same way as visual artists viewed collage in the early years of the 20th Century. With respectful acknowledgement, I
offer my own pieces of found poetry. The first of these is “The Bag II.”
Mostly, I hope to engage you, the reader, to tell (or write) your own experience of grief and grieving. By telling our stories we come to understand our experience; by looking backward to our past, we are enabled to move forward into our future.
You may purchase a copy of the complete book in PDF format in the Write Spirit Shop.

Let’s Talk Writing


I Thought I was Dying

by David Trembley

One Saturday morning in late March, I awoke at 2:30 in the morning and believed for a moment that I was dying. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I hope my explanation why will be one of the best things that ever happened to you.

In our congregation, we have a joke that is only partly a joke. Its name is “all good.” It’s a difficult notion to get your head around at first, but the pay-off is well worth the effort. All that is, is gift. All gift is good.

Specifically with that pain I was talking about, it looks like this. I awaken from a sound slumber with pain all over the place. Bottom of my jaw, diagonally from right shoulder to midsection; even my legs hurt. They are spasming, and the sweat is pouring off me in little rivers.

If I can just make it downstairs to the recliner, I think, I’ll be OK. I’ll get quiet there and wait upon God and see what there is next for me. Lots of my friends would interrupt at this point screaming, “Call 911. You ought to be in the hospital!” We’ll get to that issue in a minute, but first let’s get to the chair.

By the grace of God, I do [make it to the chair], and the first amusement is that even our cats are avoiding me. Usually when I sit in the recliner, one of them jumps onto my lap, and the other nestles between my ankles. Not this morning. Not a single meow punctuates my distress.

“Agony” might have been the right word for the first few minutes, but by the time I sit down, agony has become distress. Two things happened to effect that change. First was a wonderful bathing of peace. I realize that if I am really dying, it is perfectly OK. Not grimly or sadly OK, but profoundly so. I have had a marvelous life, and these last ten years or so have been utterly filled with gratitude and joy.

The second thing that happened is that I realized I had a fever. It raised the first suspicion that I am not having a heart attack. I get some acetaminophen, and my legs quit twitching and my sweating stops.

Since I am completely without medical expertise, I’ll leave the diagnosis for others. All I want to share is the process of recovery and what it has meant.
The next day, Sunday, I had a milder form of the attack after worship, but it was enough to cause one of the congregants to reach for his cell phone. “Don’t do it,” I said. “I don’t have enough energy to explain right now, but I will when I can.”

For eight months I have been improving. Not in a straight line but, as so often in life, in a recursive spiral. I’ve learned many things in this time; let’s settle for five.
The first I have already said. Dying is OK. My life is precious, and I am not eager to leave it. But when I do, please God, it will be with gratitude and joy. Strange as it might sound, the next four learnings seem to me as important as this one.

Drawing is good. Two weeks after that painful Saturday morning, my wife and I decided to spend Good Friday afternoon in a cemetery with our sketchbooks. The experience was so refreshing we made a standing date for every Friday afternoon. Actually, we have slipped in also two Mondays.

If you knew me better, you would understand how remarkable the preceding paragraph is. You have no doubt heard people say, “I can’t sing. I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket if you paid me. Even in church I just mouth the words.”

For “sing” substitute “draw,” and you have one of the more frustrating truths of my life. But Lo-Ann gave me a series of drawing lessons for my sixty-fifth birthday, and I made an amazing discovery. I am not hopeless. I can slow down, pay attention, look and really see, and the result is a drawing worth looking at.

In the two years between 65 and 67, I had let the drawing slide. No longer. I now believe that one of the most important things I can do every week is take out a couple of hours to draw.
The third thing I learned is that no one really needs me. I have been a helper almost all my life. One of my late mother’s favorite stories is how my kindergarten teacher confessed, “Sometimes I forget David is a child. He is so much help in the classroom that I often find myself thinking of him as a colleague.”

From kindergarten helper to teacher, pastor, surrogate father to fourteen, and now granddad to a multitude, helping is what I do – almost who I am.

No longer. The truth is that I have had my reward many times over, and the second truth is that the entire creation will somehow muddle through whether or not I am here.

No, I have not recklessly broken all my promises. I have simply become a bit more restrained and balanced. Sometimes now when the phone rings, I do not answer; and occasionally I even manage to say no.

The fourth learning is that I deserve good food. For most of my life, my relationship with food was that of a classic fat man. Feeling sad? Here, have some ice cream to feel better. Feeling happy? Good! Six slices of pizza make a perfect celebration. Lonely? Nothing like a chocolate bar for a friend. Scared? A Double Whopper with Cheese will produce all the courage you need. Angry? Blow it off with a chocolate turtle from Kopps.

No longer. I ordered the lo-cal steak with fruit yesterday at El Greco. Tonight’s supper was the third meal I have made from that purchase. I’ve lost fifty pounds or so, and I expect to lose fifty more.

Not, I hasten to add, because I am “on a diet.” I am not. Diets are about deprivation and discipline. I am now doing the same thing with food that I am doing with persons and drawing. We still like each other, but our connection now is appropriate and healthy.

The last thing I learned is that Maria will cut the grass. Indeed, my world is filled with folks who are eager to help and be my friend. Maria is our next-door neighbor. Occasionally over the years she has shoveled our snow and raked our leaves. This spring I decided I could not manage cutting the grass on the hill in our front yard, so I went to ask Maria.

“Of course,” she replied. “I’ll be glad to.” I suggested a figure as compensation, and she replied, “O no, I don’t want a job. I am your neighbor. This is what neighbors do.”

As I write these words, healing continues. I am still dying, of course, but I am now thinking I may have years left rather than minutes. Whichever it is, this I believe. It is all good. It is all gift from God, who knows me and loves me better than I know and love my own self. If you’ve read this far, perhaps you have at least a suspicion that I might be on to something. Why don’t you give the notion a chance and see? If you were to make five changes in your life in order to increase your gratitude and joy, what would they be?

And when will you begin?
To post your five changes, enter them below and post them.