Touching the Edge: A Mother's Spiritual Path From Loss to Life

Overview

Praise for Touching the Edge

"Touching the Edge is an homage to love, loss, and the rising grace that comes when grief is transformed into peace. Margaret Wurtele's bow to her son, Phil, is a story we can all recognize within the context of each family's dance with death. Her words can heal the fall of a human heart."
-Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge, Red, and Leap

"Touching the Edge is an extraordinary memoir. Margaret Wurtele writes of the most painful events a parent...

See more details below
Hardcover
$31.53
BN.com price
(Save 9%)$34.95 List Price
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (25) from $1.99   
  • New (12) from $8.37   
  • Used (13) from $1.99   
Touching the Edge: A Mother's Spiritual Journey from Loss to Life

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$13.99
BN.com price
(Save 43%)$24.95 List Price

Overview

Praise for Touching the Edge

"Touching the Edge is an homage to love, loss, and the rising grace that comes when grief is transformed into peace. Margaret Wurtele's bow to her son, Phil, is a story we can all recognize within the context of each family's dance with death. Her words can heal the fall of a human heart."
-Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge, Red, and Leap

"Touching the Edge is an extraordinary memoir. Margaret Wurtele writes of the most painful events a parent can ever imagine, and yet she writes so honestly, so clearly, with prose as lucid and shimmering as cut crystal, that the book shines with a quiet grace. I too have a single grown child. I read this book and trembled. But I also saw, through Margaret Wurtele's eyes, a glimpse of the light that guided her through the darkness. It was a privilege to read this book."
-Susan Allen Toth, author of Blooming: A Small-Town Girlhood and My Love Affair with England

"I happened to be climbing on Rainier the day that Phil was killed, and I often wondered who he was, what he was like. Now, thanks to this beautifully told account, I have a very good idea. And I have an even clearer sense of what it means to be a parent, and a child of God. This book will choke you up, but the tears will be more than worth it."
-Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Long Distance: Testing the Limits of Body and Spirit in a Year of Living Strenuously

"The experience of love and loss, when shared, can become the alchemy of a rebirth of the spirit in others. In this journey to the other side of grief, Margaret Wurtele is fearlessly true to her experience of loss and makes herself available to be an agent of transformation for her readers. This is the glory of the human story: we really are 'members of one another' whether we realize it or not."
-Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, and author of Seasons of Grace, The Soul's Journey, and Living the Truth

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
In a previous book dealing with spiritual growth (Taking Root), the author illuminated her journey to Christianity after a childhood spent within a secular home. In this memoir Wurtele, co-founder of Ruminator Books, beautifully describes how the death of her only child darkened her life and tested her religious awakening. An avid mountain climber, Phil, the author's 22-year-old-son, was a summer intern at Washington State's Mount Rainier Park. He was killed with a ranger on a rescue mission to assist an injured climber. Interspersed with moving portraits of Phil's short life, the author's memories of the pain that consumed her during this first year of mourning. She was fortunate to have the love and support of her husband (Phil's stepfather) as well as a good relationship with three grown stepchildren who became even closer to her after Phil's accident. It was, however, Wurtele's commitment to religion that provided her with the sustenance to go on during this difficult time. Wurtele found emotional relief in a retreat that she took at the Episcopal House of Prayer and in exploring the writings of John of the Cross. Ecumenical in her outlook, she also attended another retreat conducted by a Catholic priest who had studied Zen meditation intensively. Wurtele shares the dreams and visions of Phil that came to her during this period as well as the deepening faith that gave her the courage to accept her adventurous son's death. (Feb.) ("Publishers Weekly", December 2, 2002)
Publishers Weekly
In a previous book dealing with spiritual growth (Taking Root), the author illuminated her journey to Christianity after a childhood spent within a secular home. In this memoir Wurtele, co-founder of Ruminator Books, beautifully describes how the death of her only child darkened her life and tested her religious awakening. An avid mountain climber, Phil, the author's 22-year-old son, was a summer intern at Washington State's Mount Rainier Park. He was killed with a ranger on a rescue mission to assist an injured climber. Interspersed with moving portraits of Phil's short life, the author's memories of the pain that consumed her during this first year of mourning. She was fortunate to have the love and support of her husband (Phil's stepfather) as well as a good relationship with three grown stepchildren who became even closer to her after Phil's accident. It was, however, Wurtele's commitment to religion that provided her with the sustenance to go on during this difficult time. Wurtele found emotional relief in a retreat that she took at the Episcopal House of Prayer and in exploring the writings of John of the Cross. Ecumenical in her outlook, she also attended another retreat conducted by a Catholic priest who had studied Zen meditation intensively. Wurtele shares the dreams and visions of Phil that came to her during this period as well as the deepening faith that gave her the courage to accept her adventurous son's death. (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471222873
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 2/14/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 246
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

MARGARET WURTELE was the cofounder of the Minnesota-based independent publisher Hungry Mind Press, now Ruminator Books Press. The author of a previous spiritual memoir, Taking Root, she is a former board chair of the Guthrie Theater and Minnesota's Episcopal House of Prayer. She and her husband divide their time between Minneapolis and California's Napa Valley, where they grow grapes and produce Terra Valentine wine.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Touching the Edge

A Mother's Spiritual Path From Loss to Life
By Margaret Wurtele

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-22287-9


Chapter One

Questions of Spirit

What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast, inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours. Rainer Maria Rilke

It was the summer of 1986, the first one in years that actually felt like summer. I had quit a full-time job earlier that year to spend more time with my son Phil, who had just turned thirteen. He seemed hardly to notice my presence, so absorbed was he in his friends and sports. To my surprise, it was I who felt utterly new.

I was relaxed, far less busy, and I was preoccupied, becoming aware of a new consciousness that had swelled into the pockets of stillness my days now offered. I woke early most mornings, when the light was easing up over the marsh and birds called from the branches of the trees just outside our bedroom windows. I would set off, up the driveway, the crunch of my shoes on the gravel interrupting the natural sounds of morning. I might break a strand of a spider's trail across my forehead, sidestep a hapless frog flattened by a late-night car. I might notice a dandelion gone to seed or a sumac pod swollen where a blossom used to be. On those walks I felt transparent, like a traveling lens that could take the world in as it came, accurately, freely, unshaped by judgment or projection. This circuit became a kind ofmantra for me, as I passed each familiar house, each bend in the road, each bit of landscape. I depended on them to set the pace for the day, to orient me in a way to a new openness.

I had taken up yoga again too. Thirteen years before, as a new mother, I had discovered the ancient discipline, taking Saturday classes, practicing faithfully for a year or so. But the demands of a new baby and the pressures of what became single motherhood had intervened, making it impossible to continue. The previous year I had tried again. I found a teacher I loved, a class near my house, and-with the new time that unemployment gave me-I had become a dedicated student again.

I loved yoga class. I worked so hard, stretching and aligning my body. The intricacies of each pose-the position of my feet, thighs, hips, spine, and shoulders-demanded a kind of focused attention that I had not experienced. Yoga was unlike attention at work or at play, attention that drew me out to the world. This awareness drew me strongly into myself and beyond, to a suspended mental state in which thoughts and fantasies, worries and anxiety were crowded out and irrelevant, where the only thing that mattered was utter awareness of the orientation of limbs, muscle, sinew, even blood flow, all in an attempt to hold myself in a harmonious, graceful posture.

At the end of class, exhausted from the effort, we were invited to lie on the floor in savasana, the "corpse" pose. Limbs outstretched, we relaxed every quivering muscle one by one, starting from the scalp and moving, inch by inch, down to the soles of our feet. Again, all my attention was fixed on this journey, unwavering, focused. The utter calm, the peace, the isolation from everything else became for me a kind of prayer.

* * *

"Prayer" had always felt wrong to me. In our family growing up, the concept had been like watching soap operas on television or engaging in ethnic slurs. Prayer just wasn't done. My bright young parents were eagerly ethical; they believed in reading and in the life of the mind. They were active and outdoorsy, but religion-or anything that smacked of "spirituality"-was considered outside the bounds of worthy pursuit. It wasn't bad; it just wasn't for them, for us. I understood that religion-and particularly the Christianity of our forebears -was speculative at best, and therefore perhaps even a little frivolous. I gleaned that its followers were unquestioning, needy, perhaps too easily led. In my parents' lively agnosticism, "God" was an anthropomorphic label that oversimplified science and nature, that substituted a supernatural shoulder to cry on when earnest psychology and in-depth personal exploration would result in more mature growth.

I knew about prayer, of course. Grace was said before dinner at my friend Ann's house, and I-like every child-had somehow picked up NowIlaymedowntosleep.... But I had been given no framework for it. Praying seemed just odd to me, like living by the ocean or speaking a foreign language. I assumed I was expected to agree with my parents. The first child and eager to please, I was timid and ashamed of the huge questions that floated around the edges of my consciousness, the yearnings in which I secretly indulged.

One of my best friends in grade school was Catholic. I stared, already fascinated with the crucifix that hung above her bed, at the palm frond she stuck into it just before Easter and left there to turn stiff and yellow for months afterward. I tagged along with her family occasionally to Sunday mass and ate it up. I didn't necessarily believe in anything; I just wanted some recognition of mystery in my life.

Our family joined the Unitarian Society for several years in answer to my pleas. We had Sunday "forums" and "celebrations" of various natural seasons, but where was God? Where was Jesus? Why wasn't it called "church" so I could say I went to one? I might as well have been at school or summer camp. I was as embarrassed by this new affiliation as I had been by our stay-at-home Sundays.

As I grew, I took on my parents' attitudes. I absorbed the liturgy of humanism and natural science. Instead of hymns, I memorized the lyrics to Urban League records. The catechism of doubt took hold, turning me into a confirmed agnostic, one who was polite and tolerant but who felt intellectually superior to any version of a believer.

Now here I was that summer of 1986, the mother of a thirteen-year-old-boy, Phil, my only child. I had recently passed forty, and new life was stirring in me, life of a spiritual nature. Despite the intensity of the yoga-or perhaps because of it-I could no longer see myself as just a body with a thinking motor, one that was born of a human animal mother and would just tick away like a windup clock until I stopped altogether at the hour of my death. I felt bigger than my body, bigger than my brain. I was becoming expanded somehow, opened up. Maybe it was a midlife crisis, but surely the landscape had shifted. A new path beckoned to me, and I was eager to see where it would lead.

Later that summer, I was sitting in the office of the Episcopal bishop of Minnesota. I had come in desperation, because I needed help, and he was the only member of the clergy I knew personally. I had met him about ten years earlier, when Phil and I were en route to visit my grandmother in Tucson. Our plane was delayed for an hour or so in Denver, and the bishop and I had struck up a conversation. He had impressed me then with his warmth and openness, and so I had called him, hoping he would remember me.

I felt as if he was towering over me, but he was wearing an open-collared blue shirt, not the purple one with the stiff white collar I had expected. So I took heart. I told him about all the books I had been reading obsessively, about the yoga and how I was drawn to Eastern religions. He seemed to be listening carefully. I took a deep breath.

"Actually, I think I want to explore Christianity, but I don't think it will ever be possible for me."

"Why not?" He was listening, interested.

"Because I could never recite the creed," I said. "I don't think I could ever believe what it says."

I waited, sure he would send me packing. But he looked intently at me. He didn't seem shocked or even surprised. He stood up and began pacing around the office, pausing first near the bookshelves, then in front of the colorful yellow oil painting that dominated one wall.

"Why don't you try thinking of it as a song?" he said. He turned his back to me and began reciting the Nicene Creed gently, rhythmically. He didn't linger over each word, but he let it flow, creating an atmosphere, a kind of invitation.

Something cracked inside of me. I felt a little explosion, like a blast opening the entrance to a tunnel. I heard him refer to the creed as "poetry." I heard him giving me permission to think of it that way-like art or music.

After that day, I felt I had made a choice. I was sure I wanted to see if Christianity would work for me. I continued to take yoga, to explore meditation, and to read freely in Eastern as well as Christian literature. But in my daily life, in my heart, I started down the Christian path in earnest.

I began to go to church nearly every Sunday. My husband Angus was a cradle Episcopalian, and he was eager to take up where he had left off years before when he had let it all go. We went together to St. Mark's Cathedral in downtown Minneapolis. The gothic spaces soared; the music was sublime. I felt a little like an imposter, like a guest crashing the party, but I took the Book of Common Prayer in hand and I recited the creed when the time came. Part of me still clenched up when I read, "born of the Virgin Mary" or "seated at the right hand of the Father," but the other part of me said It's OK! It's poetry! So I kept reading.

I began to see two ways to think: with my head and with my heart. If I stayed in my head, I brought tests to bear on the text: measures of history and science, questions of feasibility or verifiability. But if I stayed in my heart, I looked not for true statements but for truth, not for fact but for feeling.

I listened to Scripture the same way. I took in the stories, but I set them free inside of me. I played with them. I considered the dynamics of the characters, put myself in the settings. I began to see that the Bible and Christian liturgy were tools. Rather than things that I was being asked to "believe" against my better judgment, they were rich storehouses of wisdom, poetic images and metaphors passed down through time, that I could dip into at will and apply to my own life.

Like the story of Abraham and Sarah. I resonated with this tale about the woman who was old, who had lived for years trying to have a child and who had nearly given up. That experience had almost been mine with Phil.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Touching the Edge by Margaret Wurtele Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2003

    an honest, gripping and moving account of an encounter with grief

    Margaret Wurtele writes beautifully and movingly of her only child's death in the midst of a period of great spiritual awakening. I loved her honesty -- she shares the shock and pain, and how she finds meaning and joy again following her son's death. I would highly recommend this book to those who are facing the loss of a loved one -- and to anyone who is seeking to live life more deeply.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)