Class Reunion

For decades, I shuddered at the memory of my high school years. Attending my high school reunion helped me put those memories in a new context.

Lending a Hand

On two morning walks several months apart, I had starkly different experiences with strangers I thought might need help.

A Is For Aunt

Since 2003, I have lived four miles away from my two nephews. During that time, they grew from boys to young men—and they transformed my life.

What I Learned From My Last Job

As a stranger-than-fiction presidential race dominates the news, I pause to contemplate a more mundane area of public affairs: government service.

Applause for the Class of 2016—and 1939

My nephew’s high school graduation inspired me to reflect on my aunt’s graduation 77 years ago. The world the Class of 1939 entered might have seemed as perilous as today's world.

500 Hours of Happiness

As a volunteer music therapy aide at a busy urban hospital, I have learned firsthand the power of a piano to lift spirits and ease cares—at least for the length of a song or two.

Less Than Perfect Is Just Fine

In any creative endeavor, how does one strive for perfection while not being paralyzed or defeated by the knowledge that perfection is unattainable?

The Passing of Three Souls

When long-distance friends lose a loved one, can email, sympathy notes, or heartfelt Facebook messages take the place of a visit?

The Small Vicissitudes of Life

Someone put a dent in my car door, and my insurance company declared the car a total loss. Here's how I fought big business and won.

My World View, In Four Paragraphs

A college application asked my nephew to explain how his past had shaped his world view. As I looked at his answer, I wondered how I would respond to the same question.

The Last Time I Saw Paris

In high school and college I yearned to live in Paris. But life intervened, and I made just one trip there. Now I wonder if I can summon the courage to visit again.

As Easy as Apple Pie

After a bad experience with a pie crust, I learned the value of keeping it simple and trusting my instincts. I also discovered you can learn a lot about life from making a pie.

Still Hooked on Books

In a world of 140-character tweets and other fast-paced electronic distractions, I continue to derive knowledge, inspiration and solace from books.

A Meditation for My Mother

I helped care for my mother for six years before she died. The sixth anniversary of her death feels like a turning point for me.

The Burden of the Past

I have been blessed with a good memory. But recently I decided to spend less time rummaging through my past and more time looking toward my future.

Bliss on Two Wheels

It took me forever to learn to ride a bicycle as a child, and as an adult I went for years without putting foot to pedal. Now I am making up for lost time, convinced that bicycling benefits the body and the soul.

Sentimental Journey

Summer vacations in my childhood meant annual visits to my parents’ families in New England. This summer I returned to my mother’s Vermont hometown for the first time in decades. I found people and places there that reminded me happily of my mother, her family and my own youth.

Hallowed Halls and Stage Lights

The landscape of the past has many points of entry. I walked through one of them when I revisited the building where I went to high school and the stage where I had been a student performer.

Lucky Man

My grandfather died suddenly in his fifties from a heart attack, leaving behind a wife and four sons. But years earlier he had sidestepped death on the Titanic and possibly the Lusitania, too. Did he die prematurely or did he have the good fortune to live far beyond the number of years the Fates had originally allotted him?

A Prayer for My Aunt

My mother's younger sister often seemed angry with the world. In her last months, as she battled the physical and mental indignities of old age, I saw a new sweetness of character, along with the iron strength that had sustained her through her life's tribulations.

Living in the Here and Now

For most of my life, I have wanted to be somewhere else, living an entirely different life. A calendar from years ago showed me that I had then—and may even have now—a life that other people might envy.

My Mother's Music

My mother was not given to extravagant displays of emotion, but she loved opera—the theatrical home of outsized passions. Five years after her death, I am beginning to understand why.

Holding on to the Holiday Spirit

What do Barry Manilow, Charles Dickens and Aung San Suu Kyi have in common? Their words suggest that the world would be a much better place if we could just manage to be kind to one another every day.

Compassion for Our Elders

Helping my mother in the last years of her life affected me deeply. My elderly aunt’s recent health problems have given me a second chance to be of service.

To Ease the Deepest Pain

Life is full of loss and unfathomable sorrow. Simply listening to those who suffer and grieve can be an act of compassion and kindness.

The Bookshop on the Corner

In an unfamiliar New York neighborhood, I was determined to find a bookstore that I didn’t know existed. Did serendipity—or something more profound—lead me to it?

A Day in the Country

I thought I was allergic to life beyond the city limits. A recent visit to a rural small town helped broaden my perspective.

Chance of Rain and Other Perils

My mother had a talent for anticipating the worst. Toward the end of her life, she tried to break me of her bad habit.

Trips Through Space and Time

Since my college days, art museums have been sanctuaries and sources of inspiration and enlightenment for me.

In the Shelter of Three Trees

When I moved back home to help care for the living, I also learned how to honor the dead.