May 2, 2018

RECAP: Stories from the Threshold

On May 1, 2018, Starr King School for the Ministry hosted a joint book release party, celebrating new work from the SKSM community about caring for those we love at the end of their lives. The event highlighted two books; Life’s Last Gift: Giving and Receiving Peace When a Loved One is Dying by Dr. Charles Garrfield (SKSM Research Scholar), and The Wave and the Drop: Wisdom Stories About Death and Afterlife by Cindy Spring.

After some munching and mingling, SKSM Interim Dean of Faculty, the Rev. Dr. Meg Richardson, introduced Dr. Garfield as someone who “has been recognized internationally as the founder of Shanti Project, a widely acclaimed AIDS and cancer service organization. A clinical professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California School of Medicine at San Francisco (UCSF) for nearly four decades, and a fellow of the American Psychological Association, he is currently one of our research scholars at the Starr King School for the Ministry at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.”

Dr. Garfield took to the podium to introduce Life’s Last Gift, his motivation for writing it, and some of its key takeaways. “I wanted to be able to hand it to individuals who needed it,” he explained. “This book is not just for people at the end of life. It’s not just about relationships during someone’s dying time. These principles that the book is based on are useful for people in all relationships.”

Dr. Garfield’s book focuses on 9 commitments:

1) I Will Listen from the Heart
2) I Will Speak from the Heart
3) I Will Act from the Heart
4) I Will Treat You with Empathy
5) I Will Value Small Acts of Kindness
6) I Will Listen to Your Stories
7) I Will Use My Pain to Connect with You
8) I Will Allow Love to Sustain and Heal Us Both
9) I Will Accompany You as Far as We Can Go Together

There is one promise that dying people need to hear, more than any other, from those who love and care about them: I choose to be with you in a healing partnership, though I know you’re dying. I will stand with you in the midst of despair. I’d like to help you make this brave and comforting choice. It can be life’s last gift.” ~Dr. Charles Garfield

Following Dr. Garfield’s presentation, Cindy Spring introduced her book, The Wave and the Drop.

Spring is a self-described “author, social activist, and explorer of the unconventional. Since the mid 1990’s she has been active in local ecology in the San Francisco area and co-founded two ecology nonprofits, EarthTeam and Close to Home, as well as serving as coordinator for Earth Day 2000 for the Bay Area. Her explorations have been in the fields of spirituality, transpersonal psychology and personal growth.”  (

Spring’s book gets its title from a Hindu tale she once shared to console her mother-in-law when she was confined to a skilled nursing facility. In the story, “a single drop of water is thrown from a wave. For a brief moment, this little drop has a life of its own. Then it falls back into the wave and rejoins the movement of the ocean.” Having witnessed the comforting effect this story had on her mother-in-law, Spring was inspired to share wisdom stories from a variety of diverse human traditions. The chapters of her book include tales of transcendence, wholeness, and reconciliation.

We as humans have tried to put together answers to those two questions — what happens when you die, and what happens after you die? — and we’ve written many, many stories. Some of them have lasted many decades and millennia. I tried to capture some of the stories from those wisdom traditions as well. What I conceived of, The Wave and the Drop, is kind of an Aesop’s Fables for the dying time. Short stories, short chapters where I try to put the essential message of the different traditions together in one book without highlighting any particular one but giving you a set of answers to those questions you’ve been thinking about for yourself.” ~Cindy Spring

To watch a recording of the full event, Stories from the Threshold, click here.

To find more information about the authors, and to purchase their books, visit and

Photo by Stu Felland

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