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Challenge and gift

11 September 2015

These lived examples of resilience impress Christine Worsley

Fly While You Still Have Wings: And other lessons my resilient mother taught me
Joyce Rupp
Sorin Books £11.99
Church Times Bookshop £10.80 (Use code CT611)



IN THIS beautifully written book, Joyce Rupp invites readers to share her journey with her mother, Hildegard, through ageing, dying, and bereavement. It is an account written with gentleness and love. Through the use of biography, personal reflection, poetry, and spiritual writings, Rupp offers valuable insights into the challenges and gifts that ageing, death, and bereavement can bring.

Rupp’s story is told in the light of faith without being either pious or dogmatic. This reflects the pattern of her mother’s own faith journey. Rupp recounts that, to Hildegard, official religion was “an inherent companion throughout her life”, just part of how things were. Her faith was honest enough to express doubt and rebellion, but open enough for her to grow in commitment and understanding in facing loss. Through her resilience, Hildegard was able to “lean into” the reality of loss, beyond which she found the expansiveness of peaceful, but far from passive, acceptance, in which she was able to “lift up her emptiness” to God.

Joyce’s journey, interwoven with that of her mother and recounted with equal honesty, illustrates her movement to the place where regret could be left behind and self-accepting forgiveness embraced.

The book is an exploration of lived examples of resilience. As such, it both resonates with more theoretical approaches to resilience in pastoral care and also has the potential to provide an interesting and lively balance to them. Questions and topics for reflection are provided for each chapter in a Reader’s Guide at the end of the book. There is material here for challenging group and individual reflection and discussion.

I came to this book with apprehensions of sentimentality, and resilience reduced to “making the best out of difficult situations”. I was wrong. The book is a gift — and one with challenge and bite.


The Revd Christine Worsley is a priest in the diocese of Worcester.

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