Visit the Abbey of the Arts online retreat platform to access your programs:

The Fire of Endings


We had a lot of rain while up in Canada, but one evening was particularly beautiful and the world was on fire for a brief window of time.  We often think of endings as only sad, but I find there is a beauty to them as well.  Against the fierce edges of life, things around us suddenly become more vivid.  Endings can bring us gifts of awareness we did not have before.  I am thinking about limits and endings a lot these days.  My father-in-law was just diagnosed with Parkinson’s and has heart disease, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago and also has a history of stroke.  I am filled with sadness for them as they navigate these years of their lives, letting go more and more.  I am sad for my husband who has not had to deal yet with the loss of his parents and who so lovingly walked along side me when my parents died.  They may still live for several more years with modern medicine, but they are forced to release their independence slowly, a task that has not been easy for them.

Mostly I want to hold my husband closely, against this fierce backdrop of endings.  Each day a gift, each moment a sacrament, each heartbeat a treasure.  I want to breathe in love, breathe out love.

This has been a very good year for us even amidst our losses.  My life is abundantly blessed, I do work I love, I have people in my life I care deeply about and who care for me, I celebrate beauty every day.  Something about endings ignites the fire of gratitude within me until it becomes as vast as the purple evening sky spread across the ocean’s horizon.

What endings do you celebrate as the year draws to a close?  Which endings make you hold on to life and love more passionately?

-Christine Valters Paintner

You might also enjoy

Monk in the World Guest Post: Janeen R. Adil

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series. Read on for Janeen Adil’s reflection and poem about liminality. Thresholds and doorways make for evocative images; as a monk in the world, I am drawn to a

Read More »

Preparing for Advent + Prayer Cycle Day 7

Dear monks, artists, and pilgrims,  Today we share the final two audio podcasts of our 7-day prayer cycle on the theme of The Love of Thousands. The theme for morning is on ancestral earth and deep time, honoring that our ancestors are not just our human

Read More »

Monk in the World Guest Post: Susan Blagden

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Susan Blagden’s contemplative photographs and poems inspired by the work of Thomas Merton. As a contemplative photographer, coach and priest, I seek

Read More »

12 Responses