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.

My Crooked Path Toward Perfection

When I returned to piano lessons as an adult, I never dreamed how much I would learn about myself.

Notes on a New Season

The brutally cold winter wreaked havoc with my emotional equilibrium. But spring is here at last, and my outlook on life has greatly improved.

Learning to Let Go

A long-ago memory of my mother’s kindness helped me pay tribute to her after she died.

The Archaeology of Memory

For Marcel Proust, it was the taste of a small cake. For others, it’s the scent of a certain perfume or flower. My latest encounter with the past was sparked by a walk in a Manhattan neighborhood.

Three Cheers for Obamacare

Don't be swayed by the vitriol of uninformed critics. For many Americans not covered by employer health insurance, the Affordable Care Act is a lifeline.

Thanksgiving Revisited

Is it possible to celebrate Thanksgiving without being overwhelmed by memories? This year I am going to give it a try.

The Shadows of Our Mothers

Daughters may want to be nothing like their mothers, but sometimes we don’t have a choice.

Do As I Say, Not As I Did

I wasn’t born to be a leader. But when my older nephew headed off to college, I discovered my inner sage.

My Exciting Night Life

Scenes of Hawaii that fill me with dread. Visitations from the dearly departed. Upcoming finals in college classes I never attended. Are my dreams trying to tell me something?

The Number Between 12 and 14

Superstitions are incompatible with life in the modern world. Or are they? My experience with a certain number makes me think that a force more powerful than mere coincidence is at play.