Posts Tagged ‘loss’

My Interview with Author Mirabai Starr

April 27, 2017

Mirabai Starr

It was a privilege to interview author, teacher and speaker Mirabai Starr about her poignant and beautifully written book, Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation, which chronicles her most significant life experiences, and in particular the tragic loss of her teenage daughter, Jenny.

This beautifully written book spoke directly to my heart. Mirabai’s transparency and willingness to be emotionally naked and vulnerable are astonishing. Her openness to share her journey of grief and loss is undoubtedly a gift to those who are struggling with unimaginable losses.

I was so very impressed with the quality of the writing as well. Dozens of times throughout the book, with just a few perfectly expressed and arranged words, Mirabai conveys an emotional power and depth that is nothing short of stunning.

Her message is clear and powerful: even when the world is not large enough to contain your grief, and even though you will never again be who you once were, know that healing is possible, and that joy patiently waits on the other side of sorrow.

Click here to visit Mirabai’s website.

Click on the audio player below to listen to my 24-minute interview with Mirabai:


Hi, Mirabai, thanks so much for joining us today.
Hi, Phil. Thanks for having me. I’m delighted to be with you.

My pleasure. Allow me to introduce you. Mirabai Starr writes creative nonfiction and contemporary translations of sacred literature. She teaches and speaks internationally on contemplative practice and inter-spiritual dialogue. A certified bereavement counselor, Mirabai helps mourners harness the transformational power of loss. Her newest book, Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation, received the Spirituality and Practice Best Books of 2015 Award. Mirabai, tell us about this book, Caravan of No Despair.
Well, the book started . . . The seed idea came from the coalescing or the cataclysm, actually, of two events in my life. One was the release of my first book, which was a translation of Dark Night of the Soul by the 16th-century Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, and on the very day that that book was released, that I received my first advanced copy, my fourteen-year-old daughter, Jenny, was killed in a car accident. In fact, the two events coincided so closely that it still blows my mind almost fifteen years later. The UPS . . . we lived rurally in Taos, New Mexico, so UPS had just . . . no, it was FedEx . . . had just delivered the first advance copy of my first book and it was sitting on the table unopened. Jenny had been missing since the night before when she took off with my car. Half an hour after the book was delivered, the police came to the door to inform me that they had found her and that she was gone, that she was dead.

It took me a long time, Phil, to integrate those two things. I mean it became clear to me pretty early on that what I had understood about the Dark Night of the Soul when I was translating that mystical masterpiece by John of the Cross was inadequate for (more…)

Missing Grampo

February 10, 2014
My sister Cyn and me with our beloved Grampo

My sister Cyn and me with our beloved Grampo


One word. A lifetime of memories. Ortonville is the small Minnesota town where my dad grew up and where our family went to visit his parents—Grammo and Grampo to my sister, Cyn, and me—for most holidays and just because, year after year after year. It was a second home to us.

I still get the Ortonville Independent in the mail, the newspaper that’s been run by the Kaercher family for three generations. Jimmy Kaercher is around my mom’s age and still writes a weekly column. His daughter, Sue, recently took over the reins of day-to-day operations.

In the January 28, 2014 issue, Sue wrote in her column, Sue’s Muse:

Another building is gone from Ortonville’s main street. The old brick building that stood on the northeast corner of Second Street and Jackson Avenue was leveled early Saturday morning. The building, which had been vacant for decades, was owned by the EDA after it went to the county in back taxes. Bricks were falling off it, windows were broken and the roof was in need of repair. It had become dangerous.

That doesn’t make it any easier to see it come down. It was a landmark to the community, part of the town’s identity. The building was referred to as the “Odd Fellows” building because it was built to house the meeting room for the Odd Fellows fraternal organization.

At this point, I had lost interest in the story because I didn’t know what building Sue was referring to. Just before I tossed the paper in the recycling, I glanced at the next paragraph and (more…)

All of it: Holy

January 27, 2014

Derrick Brown

Derrick Brown

Poet Derrick Brown‘s captivating seven-minute film, “A Finger, Two Dots Then Me,” is a rumination on love, loss, life after death and the nature of (more…)

A Hug From Richard

January 12, 2012

In her book, Heart Prints; Walking on Holy Ground, Julie Ireland Keene starts off a chapter titled “The Faces of Angels Among Us” with a heartwarming story about her son who died far too young. All the elements line up so perfectly that it would be a stretch to attribute it all to coincidence. You make the call.


The wise words of Rumi: “Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment” apply to an experience I had several years ago that remains vivid, consoling, and bewildering. For quite some time I had been focused on releasing the grief concerning my son Richard’s sudden death at age nine. For far too long I had carried the hundred pound weight on my heart and with the help of my dear friend Ione along with spiritual teachers such as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Stephen Levine, Ram Dass and others, I made great progress. I took care of my unfinished business with him, dealt with guilt over not being a perfect parent, and was able to see the wonderful gift of having this dear loving soul in my life for nine years.

I had always dreamed of Richard in his nine year old earth suit. However, after I had gone through the process of releasing the pain but keeping him close in love, I had a dream of him as a (more…)

When Rhonda Met Larry

November 9, 2011

By the time I got to the end of Rhonda Hayes‘ story of love, loss and second chances in Guideposts, I was sobbing. I was so impressed by her joyous attitude and love of life that I contacted her through her website. Since she and her husband Larry don’t live far from me, they graciously drove to Encinitas tonight and met me for dinner at the Lotus Cafe. We had a wonderful visit and I look forward to seeing them again. They truly are an inspirational pair!

Rhonda’s Guideposts story is below.

Rhonda and Larry on their wedding day


A recently widowed mother’s leap of faith is rewarded and a daughter’s last wish granted.

Rhonda’s daughter, Sherry

“Mom,” my 35-year-old daughter, Sherry, said softly, “you need to get a life.”

“A life?” I said. “Sweetie, you are my life.” I was massaging my daughter’s feet like I did every day, trying to take her mind off the pain her cancer was inflicting, a cancer about which nothing more could be done. How could I think about “having a life” when my daughter’s was draining away?

“I know, Mom. I don’t know what I’d do without you. But you need to find someone. That’s what (more…)

Of Dragons and Princesses

September 6, 2011

Every staggering loss you have endured has played a major role in shaping who you are. Pain and purpose walk hand in hand.

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.
Rainer Maria Rilke

By simple virtue of enduring what must (more…)

The Spirit Laughs For What It Has Found

July 10, 2010

Allowing events in the external world to shape and define your internal world is an act of self-delusion that always leads to suffering.

Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.
Mahatma Gandhi

You must lose the fear of losing what you fear to lose. Free yourself by turning your attention from what might be lost to your fear of losing it. Each layer of fear you peel away gives you a (more…)

Enemies on the Other Side of the Wall

July 9, 2010

By definition, the craving for external security leads to a life lived in fear. After all, if you desperately want something, you will desperately fear losing it once you have it.

There is fear as long as you want to be secure—secure in your marriage, secure in your job, in your position, in your responsibility, secure in your ideas, your beliefs, secure in your relationship to the world or in your relationship to God. The moment the mind seeks security or gratification in any form, at any level, there is bound to be fear.
Jiddu Krishnamurti

Obsessed with holding on to what you have, you may not only fail to recognize life-enriching opportunities, you may view them as threats to what you are so fiercely protecting.

The walls that we build around ourselves both mentally and physically give us the dangerous false illusion that we are safe, but there’s no such thing as a (more…)

Loss and Liberation

May 11, 2010

Like countless other people in these difficult economic times, my living arrangements are far simpler and humbler than they were a short time ago. While I certainly miss certain amenities, I’ve rediscovered that there is freedom in living more simply. Even when my financial situation improves, I will be exceedingly careful about adding complexity back into my life.

You have learned something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something.
George Bernard Shaw

Right after I decided to write this post, I came across this Simon Cowell interview on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, In this one-minute excerpt, Simon recalls his free fall from hit record producer to flat broke, wondering if he even had enough money to pay for the cab ride back to his parents’ house. I was surprised to hear Simon say that (more…)

Goodbye Baseball Cards, Hello Life

August 22, 2008

willie-maysWhen I was twenty-three, financial challenges forced me to sell off my baseball card collection. I realize how trivial this may sound to some of you. But I had been collecting cards since I was six years old and they were precious to me.

I remember biking home from the drugstore at seven years old with a box of baseball cards—filled with twenty-four packs at a nickel each—and sitting at our family room table lovingly opening each pack, checking each card against my checklist, and organizing them into appropriate piles. My happiness could not have been more complete. Saying goodbye to my baseball cards felt like I was losing my best friends—and a big piece of my youth as well. I miss them to this day.

In hindsight, however, I am glad I had to let them go. If I hadn’t, I would have continued to (more…)