My life was heavily influenced by early encounters with death: My dad's uncle Bob, the violent death of a dog, a teenage neighbor who died in a car wreck, a friend shot to death simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, the death of my first girl friend in a car wreck, and the death of my sister, Pam, in a car wreck shortly thereafter. In later years, these deaths were followed by the deaths of young and old in churches I served, my wife's breast cancer. Then later by my brother Phil, other family members and, most recently, my mom. The 5 stages of grief are clearly reflected in my spiritual journey. Denial. This is reflected in my early commitment to traditional religion marked by conversions, resurrections, angels, scriptures, heavens and hells. Bargaining. This is reflected in my later immersion into liberal religion, bigger gods, mysticism, paranormal experiences, quantum physics, universal consciousness. Anger. This is reflected in more recent years as I see within myself a growing anger at churches, religious institutions, preachers, politicians, the wealthy and powerful, the blind and selfish masses, my own hypocrisy and selfishness, as well as the slow surrender of my aging body to its own inevitable death. Depression. This is reflected in a growing cynicism and sadness regarding my own, as well as humanity's failures, flaws, selfishness, blindness, and (perhaps) impermanence and ultimate insignificance. There is a temptation to give up hope in a brighter future and to stop trying to make a difference. Acceptance. Fortunately, this is reflected in a growing thankfulness for the gift of life, freedom from my relentless struggle with death, learning to let go, peace with what is, hope for what may be, accepting that the complexities of existence cannot be resolved right now, enjoying the present moment, and just trying to be a good father, husband, son and friend. Beyond all the negativity and sadness, I am letting myself see evidence of something more, something bigger and good. It can't be named or explained, but it can be experienced in stillness and thin places. Bottom line for me: Enjoy the ride, But don't forget there are others in the car and on the highway. It's not all about me. Life has been good, And still is.