On January 1 of each year, I try to reflect on the good news of the past year, forgive the pain, and gaze upon the blank slate of the new with great anticipation.

As I get older, I think of each new year as an amazing gift.

A friend once wished me a happy birthday, on “your fortieth year to heaven.”

That was 25 years ago, but I still enjoy the image of life as a journey toward a destination, a mysterious, wondrous transformation even greater than that of birth.

Seated on stone bench in front of the Snyder family graveyard. Photo by Joy Rittenhouse, Spring, 2013

Each of us has a number for our gravestone, our date of birth.

Each of us knows that someone will chisel a new number after the hyphen.

Every time we turn a new page on the calendar, we are a little closer to that date. Within that context, we can savor more completely the joys of each year.

Top Events of 2013:

Goals for 2014

  • daily rituals that remind me of my mission: to prepare for the hour of my death by living one good day at a time, and to help others do the same. This is also my simplicity goal. Death concentrates the mind and the heart, to paraphrase Mark Twain and Samuel Johnson.
  • travel to at least eight places (plans so far include Laurelville and Lancaster, PA; Mexico; Kansas City and other Kansas towns; Elkhart County, IN; Holland, MI). I would love to do a West Coast trip, a Canada trip. I am planning my travel for the year now, so please let me know if you would like me to speak in a location near you or have a venue in mind for a book talk. Have book, will travel. 🙂
  • a possible new e-book using the best of Magical Memoir Moments to help inspire other people to remember stories from their past and build a legacy. If you have signed up in the right-hand corner, you get these weekly photos and short prompts from me. Would you value having the best of them in one e-book at a low price (likely between .99 – and 2.99)?

I am about to set out with Stuart on a four-mile walk, one of the ways I am living a good day today.

With every step I take, I breathe out a little prayer of gratitude for the gifts of 2013 (especially for each of you, dear readers and friends who made so many of those dreams possible). I also breathe in the sunshine, the mountains, my partner’s smile, and all the goals for 2014 above.

This morning my friend Richard Kauffman asked his Facebook friends what has become clearer to them in 2013. Another friend, Jim Bowman, responded by quoting Fr. Richard Rohr:

“Indeed, the goal of mature religion is to help us die before we die, so we are ready for our real life!”

Father Richard and I appear to be thinking similar thoughts about the relationship of death to happiness. I take that as a sign that I am on the right path.

What about you? Here’s a chance to respond to my goals and to be accountable for your own goals of 2014 and to celebrate and/or lament that which you experienced in 2013.

Or, take Richard’s question instead: “What has  become clearer to you in the last year?”



Shirley Showalter


  1. Richard Gilbert on January 1, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    How inspiring, Shirley. Last year it became clear to me that I need and crave a daily spiritual discipline for the very reasons you imply here. I for one am not changed by one effort or one insight but by steady effort toward a better me.

    • shirleyhs on January 1, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      Anyone who spends six years writing a book, making daily progress despite the odds, will construct splendid daily rituals and follow them, both faithfully and forgivingly, meaning that sometimes it’s necessary to rest or tack or punt. Good to see your comment so that I can thank you for your many other comments on this blog this year. I have a feeling that 2014 will be a wonderful year for you. Can’t wait until Shepherd is published. Happy New Year!

  2. Marian Beaman on January 1, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    What has become clearer to me this year? That life has given me a chance for a Second (Third?) Act. I love that idea. Just this morning on NPR there was a reference to Mary Delany, the 18th century artist who began her major life’s work as an artist of botanicals at age 72, after the death of her husband.

    Congratulations on your oeuvre this year. Impressive!

    I breathe a prayer of gratitude for all my gifts during 2013.

    • shirleyhs on January 2, 2014 at 8:05 am

      The French call it le troisième âge. Doesn’t that sound prettier than “senior citizen”??!! And more creative?

      You, my dear, are living the life. 2013 was the year I met you, which was one of its pleasures.

      Can’t wait to see all that you accomplish in 2014!

  3. Laurie Buchanan on January 1, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Shirley – You inspire me! What a year you had in 2013, and what a year you’re cultivating for 2014. My hat is off to you!

    You asked about your reader’s goals. My goals are daily — a target I look to hit every day:

    Keep my whole self — body, mind, and spirit — healthy.
    Accept and respect myself and others “as is.”
    Be authentic—always.
    Be a positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing influence.
    Live in the present moment.
    Live my purpose—be a conduit for divine grace, a mindful agent of heart-based change.
    Listen “between the lines” and be sensitive to what people aren’t saying.
    Integrate the wisdom that I have with the life that I live.

    Please join me for SERENDIPITOUS LIVING in the New Year http://wp.me/pP1C5-1f8

    • Saloma Furlong on January 1, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      I love the line: “Be authentic – always.”

      Saloma Furlong

      • Laurie Buchanan on January 1, 2014 at 8:21 pm

        Saloma – thank you for letting me know this resonated with you.

    • shirleyhs on January 2, 2014 at 8:29 am

      Laurie, I hope Richard, above, has read your great list in his search for more structured daily ritual.

      And I hope all my readers will click on your wonderful post about “serendipity,” your great word-of-the-year.

      Because of you, I chose a word for my year too: connect!

      “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.” E. M. Forster, Howard’s End.

  4. Kathleen Pooler on January 1, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Shirley, What a fascinating and productive year you’ve had! What I notice the most is how you distill it all into simple terms about what matters the most. Congratulations on a banner year and on a life well-lived. You are an inspiration. Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy New Year.

    What became clear to me in 2013? Every year I am even more amazed how precious life and health are.



    • shirleyhs on January 2, 2014 at 8:50 am

      Yes, Kathy. I’ve noticed this theme in all the reflections of my friends about my age and older. We have seen friends come to the end. And therefore, we rejoice in life itself. Our joys are tinged with pains because our time in this world we love will be shorter than the time we have already lived. Let us therefore give thanks — and live!

      Blessings to you in 2014. Thanks for the inspiration to do a summary post like this one. And for being one of my most faithful connector friends in 2013. Your day is dawning!

  5. Janet Elaine Guthrie on January 1, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    I count seven significant deaths in my personal circle during 2013. As you say, Shirley, death focuses us. Entering this new year of 2014, I celebrate the reclaiming of my given family name and, to add another quote from Richard Rohr, the claiming of love as my true self (“My true self is love”). I am not enumerating specific goals for the year but rather seek to open myself to, and embody, love in all its dimensions. Blessings to you, dear friend, as you live your mission!

    • shirleyhs on January 2, 2014 at 8:52 am

      Janet, it is so good to find you here. Your own connection to the theme of death is very strong this year. I am learning from you.

      I am going to put that quote from Richard Rohr under the heart I have on my window. 🙂 “My true self is love.”

  6. Mary Lou Weaver Houser on January 1, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    I continue to be inspired by the three tenets for living/dying presented in the book Being with Dying, by Joan Halifax.

    For either process, they are invaluable:
    1. not knowing
    2. bearing witness
    3. compassionate action

    Thanks, Shirley, for the chance to share these.

  7. Jean on January 1, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    I would love a Your Magical Moments compiled. Thanks Jean

    • shirleyhs on January 2, 2014 at 9:00 am

      Jean, thanks for the feedback and encouragement. So glad you are enjoying Magical Memoir Moments. Stay tuned.

  8. Saloma Furlong on January 1, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Shirley, what a beautiful way of thinking of death… not just the end of life here on earth, but also the rebirth and beginning of life in the great Beyond. I believe this will be a great adventure, into the ultimate unknown.

    David and I, in the light of our Christmas tree last night, were reflecting on how each year we have together in love and in good health is a gift.

    What has become clearer to me in 2013 is my purpose for being here and the nature of my life’s work. It is a wonderful feeling to know you are in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time.

    Many Blessings to you and your family in 2014!

    • shirleyhs on January 2, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Saloma, I have felt that strong sense of purpose in you from the time we met, and it has only gotten stronger as you finished your second book Bonnet Strings. I believe 2014 is going to sweep you into many new opportunities to live that purpose. I enjoy when our paths intersect physically as they have already done spiritually.

      Happy New Year!

  9. Linda Hoye on January 1, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    “To prepare for the hour of my death by living one good day at a time, and to help others do the same.” This is profound, Shirley, and a worthy mission statement to be sure. I want to adopt it, in some form, as my own. With your permission, I am going to copy this down in my notebook as a reminder.

    • shirleyhs on January 2, 2014 at 9:06 am

      Linda, I’m honored that you too want to share this mission. Take it and use it. Make it your own and share it with others.

      I believe this year is a turning point for you, if I recall correctly? Moving? Transition to your own “third age”?

      Please correct any mistaken memories. I want to locate you in my mind and heart. Blessings.

  10. Tina Fariss Barbour on January 1, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    Shirley, congratulations on your accomplishments in 2013! Your mission and use of daily rituals are inspiring. That is a way to really be intentional and mindful as you make daily choices. You’ve given me some things to think about!

    I am working on one thing at a time this year, but I chose a word to guide me. It’s “adventure.” I was surprised when I sensed the word for the first time, but now I think if fits with the way my life is headed: letting go of a lot of fear and anxiety and daring to be contented and joyful. It’s a huge change for me, a change that has been going on for the last two years especially.

    I was delighted to received Blush as a Christmas gift! Santa read the list I gave him very well. 🙂 I look forward to reading and enjoying it.

    All the best to you in 2014, Shirley.

    And I would love a compilation!

    • shirleyhs on January 2, 2014 at 9:12 am

      Tina, you have been among my most faithful readers and commenters in 2013. Thank you!

      I love that word “adventure,” and it is perfect for those of us who need to stare fear in the face and turn it from an enemy into a friend. There is no adventure without fear. And the biggest adventure of all is to transform fear by taking small steps, or large ones, every day into the “land of adventure,” as an old radio program promised. I will think of you with one of those safari hats on your head.

      Have you ever read a biography of Teddy Roosevelt? He was a weakling as a child. That’s what made him so great an adventurer.

      Thanks for the feedback on MMMs. And so glad you will be reading Blush. After all these blog posts, you will have much greater background/insight than most readers, I’m sure.


  11. Elaine on January 2, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you, Shirley, for inviting others into your reflections. What became clearer to me in 2013? Unfortunately, it was that I needed to, finally, let go of trying to heal a broken relationship in which I had done everything I could but the other was unwilling or unable to respond. And so I am putting all that in God’s hands and focusing on myself and what God is doing here and now in my life. My goal is to complete a new book of poetry.

    • shirleyhs on January 2, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Oh, Elaine, this is a hard discipline. I know. I’m glad that you have let go and have turned your attention to your poetry. May the pain of losing a broken relationship lead you to new awareness and new words. I will hold you in the light in 2014.

  12. Mary Gottschalk on January 2, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Sounds like you’ve had a wonderful year … hope 2014 is every bit as good. My goal for 2014 is to get my novel out and travel (a month Rome is our #1 destination).

    Happy New Year!

    • shirleyhs on January 2, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      You’ve been really productive, Mary. And you know how much travel broadens the mind and opens the heart. Thanks for your support in 2013 and all the best with your exciting goals.

      Happy New Year to you also.

  13. janet givens on January 3, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Shirley, I loved your comment above, “There is no adventure without fear.” I’ve long used “courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” But I believe I’ll now adopt yours. So, thanks for that. Do you remember the radio show?
    I’ve shared my New Year’s Resolutions on my blog; the first year I’ve put them literally out into the universe!

    Being reminded of our mortality is a gift and I thank you for that, too. I first came to appreciate my place in this circle of life while teaching English Literature in Kazakhstan. Suddenly, one afternoon while preparing my lessons, I realized, “all these people are dead.” Somehow, that seemed to bring something I’d known cognitively into a place of knowing it viscerally.

    And I thank you for bringing the subject of death into a broader conversation. Culturally, we don’t often find open conversations on death; it’s still one of those taboos, I think, which is sad. I’m going to share your link with my hospice choir members. I know they’ll enjoy reading your post today. thanks again.

  14. shirleyhs on January 3, 2014 at 9:27 am

    “All these people are dead,” is quite an awakening. It’s the same one the teacher uses in Dead Poet’s Society whenhe takes his students into the hallway to look at the photos of former athletes. We don’t start to really live until we come to grips with death.

    Thanks for sharing the link. I am feeling the need to learn more from the hospice movement and from people like Joan Halifax who are changing the way America thinks about (or represses!) the idea of death.

    BTW, I’m mostly finished with my guest post for your blog. It will come to you by noon. 🙂

  15. edna edwards on January 3, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Shirley, I have just read your book and have a favour to ask of you and if you can help me (that should keep you in suspense)-no it is not $$.

    • shirleyhs on January 3, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      Ha, Edna. You got my attention. I will respond on email.

  16. Elfrieda Schroeder on January 3, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Shirley, life is indeed an amazing gift and so is our health. Physical suffering has not been part of my life yet and I am so thankful. May 2014 be as productive and fruitful for you as 2013 was. You have blessed me with your book and your encouragement, and I hope to meet you in person some day. I would love to see a book from you that includes all the memoir writing tips you’ve been sending. And I would love to see you come to Canada and do a reading here. I sent your book to my daughter in Ontario for Christmas and she is enjoying it.

  17. shirleyhs on January 3, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Elfrieda, every day we spend in good health at this stage of life is a blessing indeed.

    Glad to know you would be interested in a collected works of Magical Memoir Moments.

    I wish there were an airline that took me from Kitchener-Waterloo to Winnipeg to Abbotsford/Vancouver. 🙂

    I suppose there is. Planning the year’s travel in the month of January. I’ll be in touch if I see a way. Happy to do Women’s Retreats or worship or arts events if you hear of a need.

    So happy your daughter is enjoying Blush. Greetings to her also.

  18. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on January 3, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Happy New Year Shirley, Thank you for opening the door to acknowledging our Brother Death (as St. Francis might say).

    Gathering your posts to make them more available sounds grand, and so does a potential west coast trip. There is an ‘eternal’ quality to your posts that means they won’t go out of date soon.

    My word for 2014 is WILL, in all its forms and meanings, including the one that we make to speak after our death.

    My word chose me, and I’m happy it’s short and rhymes with quill, still and hill and fill (and more). I hope it also involves play and joy.

    • shirleyhs on January 3, 2014 at 10:10 pm

      WILL. I like it. So much to play with here. Did you know that in the old days, last Will and TESTAMENT actually meant that elders described their beliefs and values to their heirs as well as their earthly possessions?

      Thanks so much for all your encouragement in 2013 and even before that. And all best to you in 2014. I hope to see you on the west coast tour!

  19. Elaine on January 3, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    I was reading poetry by May Sarton this evening and thought of you as I read these words (excerpted from the poem “Gestalt at Sixty”):

    I am not ready to die,
    But I am learning to trust death
    As I have trusted life.
    I am moving
    Toward a new freedom
    Born of detachment,
    And a sweeter grace—
    Learning to let go.

    This is so lovely! I hope it speaks to you. Later she ends with:

    Praise God for His mercies,
    For His austere demands,
    For His light,
    And for His darkness.

  20. shirleyhs on January 3, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Oh, Elaine, thanks for sharing this lovely poem with me. Yes!!

    I love May Sarton (unless she is taking a bitter turn, which I sensed in some of her later work occasionally). She once responded to a fan letter I wrote her, which touched my heart.

  21. Belinda Nicoll on January 4, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Thanks for sharing, Shirley. The wonderful thing about expressing our reflections, realizations and hopes is that our honesty inspires like-mindedness. I love this solid feeling that’s beginning to settle within myself as I grow older. -Belinda.

    • shirleyhs on January 4, 2014 at 9:31 am

      Yes, Belinda. As long as we have good health, we can truly say life gets better as we age. “A solid feeling begins to settle” — and, paradoxically, we feel lighter! All best to you in 2014.

  22. Joan on January 4, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Hi Shirley, You had a wonderful 2013 and I know that 2014 will even be better. My simple goals are to live each day, one moment at a time, being mindful of the multitude of gifts that come my way, including friends. Thanks for you!


    • shirleyhs on January 4, 2014 at 9:34 am

      You, too, Joan. What a delightful benefit of social media that near-neighbors can find each other and share our lives. We are striving, and relaxing into, very similar goals at this stage of life. Hope we get to meet in Crozet or Staunton some day soon. After the snow leaves the mountain.

  23. Barbara McDowell Whitt on January 4, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Shirley, how special that you want to spend 2014 contemplating the remainder of your time here on earth. I like the way you wrote that another date will be chiseled onto our tombstones following the hyphen. I once said that I wanted my epitaph on my urn to be “She kept on keeping on.” Then I changed it to “She danced to the music of a different orchestra.” Later I added “…but first she had to hear the music.”

    • shirleyhs on January 4, 2014 at 8:57 pm

      Thanks for making me smile, Barbara. I think you have learned to hear the music of your own orchestra. Love the image. And the idea of making an epitaph has its own “concentrating the mind” impact. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Hoping to meet you in person in March!

  24. Laurie Buchanan on January 4, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Shirley – The cemetery photograph you used in this post reminded me of a post I wrote titled, “Housekeeping — The Kind that Matters” — in March of last year. It works well with your theme of contemplating our remaining time here on earth: http://wp.me/pP1C5-18a

  25. shirleyhs on January 4, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Thank you, Laurie! I loved the post and left a comment. Do you know the work of the Fetzer Institute — focused on love and forgiveness? I had the privilege of working there 2006-2010. They have a FB page you might enjoy https://www.facebook.com/FetzerInstitute?fref=ts

    • Laurie Buchanan on January 4, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      Shirley – Thank you for leaving such a lovely comment. I’m not familiar with the Fetzer Institute, but heading to the Facebook link you provided right now — thank you.

  26. Last Friday - A Slice of Life Writing on February 7, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    […] Shirley Showalter shared her personal goal with readers recently and it struck a strong chord with me. Her life’s […]

  27. Gayle Madden @ The Sweet Life: La Dolce Vita on February 8, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    This year has been a gift so far, as my death date hasn’t yet been inscribed on that gravestone!
    I’m living with advanced pancreatic cancer and have already passed one expiration date. This month will be the second expiration date.
    I still find life sweet and stay busy living my passions; writing my blog and book, painting pictures and holding God’s hand as I walk this rocky path.
    I appreciate the work you do to help people live a fuller and happier life. We are kindred spirits in that goal!
    Blessings, Gayle Madden

  28. shirleyhs on February 8, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Gayle, I love the image of you holding God’s hand. Thank you for sharing your journey here! I can tell you could teach me a lot about living one good day at a time. Blessings!

  29. […] You may remember that making an eBook out of the weekly offerings now accumulated was one of my goals for 2014, along with travel. I’d also love to grow the membership in Magical Memoir Moments, so please […]

  30. Elaine Mansfield on September 13, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    This is lovely, Shirley. As you might imagine, it speaks to me. I spent long hours in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY while Vic was having a stem cell transplant and then during other periods of his hospitalization. Those tombstones and mature trees told me many tales I took with me. I read Carlos Castenada as a young woman. The message I took home from that wild man was to live life with my death sitting on my shoulder–and consult that death as I make decisions.

    2013 was the year to find a publisher and 2014 has been the year to help my publisher bring my book to birth. My major challenge is to keep perspective, be curious, and remember to do the work without expectations for the outcome. I do this with varying amount of success, but one 2014 goal has been to keep trying.

    I love this line: “I still enjoy the image of life as a journey toward a destination, a mysterious, wondrous transformation even greater than that of birth.” Thank you.

    • shirleyhs on September 14, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      Thank you, Elaine. We apparently have been thinkng similar thoughts for a long time.

      I’m so glad I discovered you in 2014, and I look forward to reading your book.

      I know you are touching the lives of many!

  31. […] there’s the mission of preparing for death and helping others do the […]

  32. […] year at this time, I had a plan for 2014. I even wrote about it.  I heard back from many readers about my plan to CONNECT (my word for the year) and to continue […]

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