Henry Drummond wisely wrote, ” You will find as you look back upon you life that the moments that stand out . . .  are the moments  when you have done things in a spirit of love.. . as i look back I see standing out above all the life that has gone, four or five short experiences when the love of God reflected itself in some small act of love of mine . . . . .” How true! I remember counseling a young widow, who felt guilty about a new relationship as if it was a betrayal of her husband. I helped her realize that she was free to move on with her life.  I recall reaching out to a young college student who became pregnant and performing a wedding ceremony for her and her GI friend, even though it got me in hot water with the college President. An elderly widow had kept her husband’s ashed on the dinner table, and I convinced her to scatter his ashes and held a memorial service for him as we cast his ashes into the river. I go back to a moment of crisis for a college student who seemed lost about her future, and I got her to the proper person and a graduate school education which changed her life.Recently when I was there for ,an old man, confined to a nursing home, with no family to help. I brought him some shoes. These and other such moments remain when i forget all the books I have written and all the sermons I have preached. 

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I remain in “future shock” at all the changes occurring  in the publishing/printing world. Recently, my publisher, Upper Room Books, decided to end “print for real,” and like many publishers gone to print-on-demand), which means no books in the warehouse. I read about , another major change in the publishing world, some news papers are no longer being printed and available at newsstands, but only on line.  Will Steacy, in his recent book, Deadline, laments this growing trend. He believes there are social implications of this decline of printed newspapers, He claims that thjs may mean the public becomes unaware of what’s happening in the world and more dependent on CNN or Fox News (choose one). Where it hit home was his relating how his father, who had worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer for 29 years, was “laid off” when the Inquirer went on line . Growing up in Philadelphia I loved the Inquirer.  My family subscribed to The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.  My job as a 16 year old boy was delivering the Bulletin. But I would spend some of my hard earned nickels and dimes, to buy the Inquirer, to keep up with  the events of World War II, and the baseball fortunes of Philadelphia teams. (usually cellar dwellers.).  Now many printed newspapers have “gone to the dogs,” or used to line cat litter boxes.  For this curmudgeon, it’s  is a sad turn of events. Steacy makes a real case that when we lose printed newspapers, we lose ourselves. I’m glad newspapers were part of my past, and I can still go my front door every morning, pick up my copy of  the Pittsburgh Post Gazette IN PRINT, and  not  have to rely  only on the TV or computer for “news.”

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i have been given a real privilege when I visit my friend, Bill, He will be 98 soon, is blind, and lives in our  memory care unit. Since most of the other residents have reached the stage of Alzheimer’s or dementia that thy do not speak or engage, Bill needs a friend, someone who will listen to his stories He is a veteran of World War II, a member of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.: I have written his story and given it to his son, but every time I visit Bill, he tells me another story, so I am going to write a Part II!  Bill survived four major invasions in WWII, North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy. He was among the first  to land on Omaha Beach and somehow survived drowning or being gunned down  by the Nazis. Bill told me he had been in the presence of both General Patton and General Eisenhower. He is history in living color. At my last visit, Bill shared an epitaph which I share with you.

Remember, man, as you pass by

As you are now, so once was I.

As I a now so you will be

Remember then, and pray for me.



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Despite popular belief that baby boomers will continue to work well past the traditional age of 65,. those born in 1946 are retiring in droves according to a  Met Life study. The study reports that 41% of the first Boomers to turn 65 are at least partially retired, 45 % are completely retired, and 14% are retired but working part-time.  This forces the question:Where will the boomers live,? As I talk with those of the boomer generation, I am convinced most will downsize to a smaller house, stay in these smaller  homes and,  if needed get home health. The number of households  age 70 or older will surge by 47% from 2015-2025, creating some real issues for local communities. It also poses issues  for  retirement communities. Most now are only  admitting older people between 80-90, many of whom are extremely frail or have dementia. “Independent living”: has become an oxymoron, except for the high priced communities, which most can ill afford. For those of us who remain deeply concerned about the growth of Alzheimer’s and other dementas, there is good news.Experts say that baby boomers ,with their sheer numbers and knack for self-help, could slowly lift the secrecy and stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s. Let’s hope so.  It’s a changing world.

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I will never forget walking on a track with a physician. Our conversation centered around  Bioethics, Whe is the right time to say to a doctor, “Let my loved one go?” He cited several instances when the patient had not made end-of-life decisions and families kept loved one alive when there was no quality of life. I shared a story with him  about how I had to “referee” a family battle around the death bed of their mother. As she had never exactly made her wishes clear,they were divided about heroic measures to prolong her life.I ushered them out of the room, reminding them that although their mother seemed out of it, she could still hear their bickering. Finally, they decided to use a feeding tube. I wondered if that decision was based on the fact they had not had the best relationship with their mother, and were trying to make up for it by keeping her alive as long as possible. Although he was an agnostic, the doctor’s response has lingered with me for many years. He said,. “Dick, why is it that those of you are believers in a better life beyond this one, would  want to keep loved ones alive when there is no quality of life?” I had no answer for that!  My next book, At the Edge of Life: Conversations When Death is Near  (Upper Room Books) grew out of my concern that most people do not deal with end-of-life issues or have difficulties talking with a dying loved one.The little book of 72 pages show how to talk with one another when death is near. It offers conversation starters. on how to talk with dying loved ones about life’s most important questions. Katy Butler has well said, “Unless we create new rites of passage to help prepare for death long before it comes, we will remain vulnerable to the commercial exploitation of our fears and to the implied promise that death can foerever be postponed.”













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I stood by the bedside of an old friend, age 97. She had lived such a good and full life, and had signed the Five Wishes document, which clearly stated her wish not to be kept alive when there was no quality of life. She had suffered  a major stroke, was comatose, and  already in a far-off land.Yet, her daughters rejected her wishes and insisted on keeping her alive, using a feeding tube for nourishment. This is not the first time, and it won’t be the last, that I have stood helpless when someone’s wishes for end-of-life were not followed. All this points up to the necessity for people to make their  wishes known to family and physicians before they can no longer speak for themselves.Martin Luther wisely said “Everyone needs to do his own believing, and do his own dying.” There are end-of-life alternatives. So may make no plans, and allow medical technology to do everything to do preserve life at any cost.  Other may wait until the last moment, when death is imminent, make a last minute decision to trust family members to do the right thing. Other may maker plans earlier. Their wish is that if there  is a realistic hope that you can remain a competent human being, do everything possible, but if there is no quality of life, let me die.  There are two helpful programs to help people talk about end-of-life issues and make plans. Five Wishes is a program we have used in our retirement facility. i have expressed my wishes in this document and given copies to all my adult children. You can access this program at http://www.agingwithdignity.com. There is a new program, Conversation Project  which includes a starter kit to facilitate conversation with familiees about end-of-life matters. .  (www.conversationstarterkit.co). I urge you to take a look at either or both.


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I went to a Quaker school in Philadelphia and the Friends taught me about having a concern. I have a concern that all too often end-of- life decisions are not made or put off until the end of life.  As parents we planned and saved for our children’s college education. When the “retirement” age approached, we planned for financial and housing situations. Yet  only 1 in 5 Americans plan for end-of-life  issues As Carrie Madren wrote  “End-of-life conversations can stir  up a range of emotions from relief to fear.” Talking about these grave matters remains the “elephant in the room.” Older people often ignore it, and adult children are in denial and shun any talk of it. Many are like the woman who said,to her husband, “I don;t which one of us dies first, I’m going to Florida!” I realize talking about end-on-life issues is a scary subject,a topic so volatile and threatening that  people avoid it. However, much better to talk about it in the light of day rather than in the heat of the moment. The sad reality is that even when older people have advanced directives, their families often disregard their wishes and opt for “heroic measures” to keep their loved ones alive when there is no quality of life.It is time to end this conspiracy of silence and talk openly about these matters. So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Next, I will suggest two places to start this neglected conversation.

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