Saturday, August 13, 2016


Recently my sister Donna passed from this temporal life into life eternal, unfortunately I was not able to be at her bedside when this transition took place. At first this grieved me but then I remembered the death and new life of our relationship and how it evolved into a relationship of love, understanding and transparency. 

As children we were always attempting to rule one another, she the older sister, I the strong willed younger brother who would not listen to her or bend to her will. This may seem like ordinary sibling rivalry but it went much deeper. On my end it became competitive and eventually prideful. We had skirmishes, battles and at times outright war. I believed I knew what was best and I was right, often the most deadly form of arguments, to be right but forgetting about the damages it can bring to a relationship. As we grew older we tolerated each other at best and were never really comfortable with discussing anything of any real substance. At times you could feel viscerally the cold that ran between us, it was sad. I lacked hope of it ever getting better and I despaired believing my relationship with her would be like this forever. Why couldn’t our relationship be like the Cleavers or the Walton’s, I would think.

In the mid nineteen nineties I entered a monastery to be formed as a Benedictine Monk. One evening I decided I would write my sister a letter thanking her for being supportive in my discernment to enter the monastery. Donna said, “I am surprised it took you this long, I remember you desired to do this since you were in your teens.” Although Donna and my relationship was strained she encouraged me in this as she knew it was an invitation that ran deep. My desk faced a solid brick wall and as I began to write I felt a heaviness on my chest as though the wall of bricks were going to cave in on me, I began to weep uncontrollably.  Then without warning a soft, still voice stirred my heart and it whispered, “You are to ask forgiveness of your sister for the following things.” The list seemed endless and I did not believe I could do it but that voice spoke gently, directly and with grace. I began to recollect and to write. I asked forgiveness for never taking the time to listen to her, for being mouthy and sassy, disagreeing with her even when I did not understand the entire rational of her decisions and or her opinions, dismissing her, judging her and never taking her advice believing, I knew better. After I finished listing my offenses I once again heard that still, small voice, ‘You are also to say to your sister who she really is, a woman of mercy and compassion and where you have observed it.” I had noticed it many times throughout my life but I chose to be blind to it as I was full of pride. It was when she took care of her friend Kathy when she was dying of cancer and gave to the poor, opened her home and made people feel welcomed. It were the times she would sacrifice for others so they would have more and be comforted. In closing I wrote, “It is in fact you who have demonstrated the love of Christ through the years by your actions. May I in these coming days, months and years be able to do the same. What?! I thought I was the Christian, I was the example of good life. In fact it was my sister who in the words of St. Francis lived, “Preach the Gospel and if you must, use words.” Donna did not use words, she used acts of service, that was her way of speaking the Good News.

The next day, early in the morning I went to mail that letter to Donna. As I went to place it in the mailbox I heard, “What are you crazy? Intimacy is not one of your family values!” I came from a traditional Irish Catholic family mixed with Scottish stoicism and with that comes not discussing difficult subjects nor showing your emotions in public. The quieter, deeper voice, the voice of the heart said, “That is your false self speaking, the true self, which is the spirit that dwells so richly within you inspired that letter. If you mail this letter I will bring healing and restoration to your family, what do you choose to do this day?” I was floored and before I had a second to think about it I let go of that letter and dropped it in the mailbox.

Over twenty years went by and Donna and I never spoke about that letter but our relationship was transformed! It became open, supportive and we listened to one another. We even followed each others suggestions and leaned on one another in challenging times. In her I found both wisdom and consolation. I could have never dreamt this was possible. It brought healing and restoration to us and it trickled down to other members of our family. Where there was once glacial interaction there was now a sense of warmth and acceptance, a sensitivity of understanding and awareness of support even when maybe, just maybe we did not agree.

When Donna was invited home to our Creator I knew there was nothing left unsaid between us, there were no grievances but rather forgiveness, healing and restoration and in that the fruit of understanding, love and profound peace. I was able to wish her a blessed journey and knew that she would be there, on the other side of the veil to greet me so we could be at home, once again with each other and those who have gone before us.

Sunday, July 31, 2016


In Memory
Donna Simpson Baker


On July 1 my sister Donna Simpson Baker was diagnosed with A-Plastic Thyroid Cancer. It is the most aggressive form of thyroid cancer of which, according to her oncologist only one percent of those diagnosed with thyroid cancer receive. Her oncologist gave her, from her experience six months to live. As you can only imagine this was both a shock to her and to our family. My sister, after that initial jolt faced her diagnosis and prognosis with grace, peace and dignity. “I fully accept this diagnosis and prognosis” she said to me. “It is my time and I now enter this final portion of my journey with peace.” As difficult as that was to hear, I too knew I must accede to this with pain and sorrow and in so doing, accompany her on her journey to her last breath. I called her daily for a while until she no longer had the strength to speak but for a few minutes. Fortunately other family members were by her bedside day and night and served her in love, unity and humility. 

A week and a half after her diagnoses she returned to the oncologist and in that meeting it was discovered my sister’s cancer had spread to her breastbone, chest and lungs and her prognosis went from six months to “any day and no longer than three weeks.” Again she received the news with grace and went to her daughter Daniela’s house to prepare for hospice and for her final days on this side of eternity. She was greeted with open arms by Wayne and Paula, family members who assisted her in all things with affection and devotion in her remaining days. Her daughter and four grand daughters although grieving, poured out their love, stayed by her side and did everything to make her comfortable, appreciated and bathed in their love which was like no others. My brother Jim and his partner stood steadfastly with her and he was so close to her all through the years. His quiet presence resonated throughout the room in its stillness and tranquility. 

I was in California for these days where my sister instructed me to remain “until things calm down a little.” I made my reservation for the following Sunday believing I would be with her in her final days. Tindara, a lifelong friend of my niece Daniela is an RN Case Manager and who also has a close relationship with my sister. Tindara affectionately and respectfully managed all of her care and took care of every detail. This comforted me tremendously as I too am an RN Case Manager and I spoke with her daily and she was so attentive and efficient with every detail.

On the Wednesday before my flight, July 20, I received a telephone call at 12:40 p.m. Pacific Time letting me know my sister Donna had transitioned from this side of the thin veil to the next. It had become a reality and interiorly I took a pause, full of grief but also grateful for God’s mercy in that this portion of her journey was expedited. This was something she desired and those of us who loved her also desired so she would not experience the tremendous and lengthy suffering that so often afflicts those in their final months with cancer.

The night before my sister departed she received communion from the priest and he administered the Sacrament of The Last Rites, which my sister desired. After administering them he encouraged Donna to be attentive and to listen to the whisper of Jesus as he invited her to come home to him.

Our cousin Betsy had arrived from Boston the next day and she is the expressive one of the family. Betsy exudes comfort, compassion and mercy. Betsy has always been very close to our family and we and my sister share many fond memories with her. Betsy went to my sister’s side and she knew my sister was longing to have passage to the eternal. Betsy spoke softly and lovingly with Donna and comforted her and she invited my brother Jim, who was in the room to join her in praying with Donna. They held hands with her and stood on each side of her bed and Betsy let my sister know that I was in the room in my heart and in my spirit, that the family had spoken with one another and we wanted to give her permission to transition through the thin veil of eternity to complete her journey. She let her know that our parents, her Uncles and Aunts, her brother Ed and other family members would be there to welcome her. Twenty minutes later, Donna listened to that voice and without doubt fell into the loving arms of Jesus.

(Always in our hearts)

I had the privilege of delivering my sister’s eulogy at her funeral mass after two of her grand daughters shared about their love and memories of their grand mother, better known as “Nana.” They were filled with depth mixed with amusing story telling.

As I gazed out into the pews of people, in the Catholic church we attended as children it was filled with those who had a heart connection with my sister; family, friends, colleagues. I could not help but be moved by this and it was here that I began her eulogy. 

I greeted the Simpsons, Flynns, Ryans and Bakers as well as many others who were in attendance. I spoke of my sister’s gift of hospitality, inclusion and having the ability to welcome all into her home and other places where she hosted. It simply was a family gift of which she expressed most beautifully. She connected with people from the heart and it was that heart (connection) that brought us together this day.

I saw Jason, the son of her best friend in life who had also made her passage many years ago, also from cancer. My sister and she were like sisters. They lived next door to one another, upstairs/downstairs, had children about the same age and they laughed together. There he was a pallbearer whom my sister requested to be at her side, personally. Our cousin Rosemary who was her Godmother and her sister Kathleen who remembered when she lived with my grandparents after a fire that destroyed her home at the age of eighteen and recalled my mother Margaret, pregnant with my sister. Wayne, my sisters former husband and father of their daughter who had, through the years become close friends, his wife Paula who also was a friend of my sister and together with Wayne served Donna with compassion in her final week. There amongst those attending were my cousins Bob, Jim, Sandy, Bunny with their spouses, also known as “The Simpson Clan”  whom although we may not see them as much as when we were children the heart connection runs deep as they and their parents were always there for us. Our cousin Carolyn Flynn who always checked in with us through the years when I would be in from California and open her heart and home. What a family, what love!

Then as I viewed to the left, there was my sister’s daughter Daniela and her four grand daughters, Marissa, Julianna, Katelynn and her fourth and oldest grand daughter Chelsea with her husband Rocky and my sister’s great grandson, Johnathan. It was then I was not only struck with the heart connection but my sister’s legacy. 


I remember a number of years ago when my brother Jim asked me, “When did Donna become Mom?” I inquired what he meant by that and he said, “Donna prays the Daily Office and says her rosary three and four times per day.” This did not surprise me as I remember my grandmother Mary Ryan Flynn and my mother Margaret Flynn Simpson doing the same. In fact I was told that even my great grandmother Anna Murphy did the same. I realized it is from generation to generation that God’s Holy Spirit is passed down and on another note……wow, our family must really need this, not to mention the world! So many mornings I would call my sister and she would gently remind me, “I am saying my prayers now, could you call me back in about an hour?” Another time, when I was very ill with kidney disease and before my transplant I asked my sister if she would pray for me, there was a pause and she answered, “I do…….morning, noon and night.” I was so moved, I cried because I knew she meant it. Her prayers were also demonstrated through the years with the compassion she exhibited for her family, friends and strangers. She poured her heart into her daughter and grand daughters. I particularly recall her friend Kathy whom she served and cared for in her last days. These were all prayers in action.

As I looked at her daughter Daniela and grand daughters I knew, I sensed my sister’s presence. There before my eyes she was watching them, praying for them, encircling them with her love and perhaps saying, “I live in your memories, your hearts and I will not ever leave you.” Exhibited in them is her life that formed them, has a remarkable influence on them and in one another she will be reflected not only in their eyes but as they serve their Creator and humanity.

As we said our final goodbyes, on this side of eternity we took a moment of silence to remember. To remember as individuals who she was, how she influenced and what in her life invites us to be closer to God and to one another. We then extended our right hands towards where she was laid and I led us corporately in a prayer of blessing for her, to release her to Christ, to her loved ones who waited for her and requested she wait for us in hope of the resurrection.

 Donna Simpson Baker, pray with us.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Word, Fulfilled

We have 
great distances

Not only because
what we have heard
we have been 

The Promise
Long Anticipated

The Word

Since the beginning

Oh Come 


All of

Releasing us 

 to us


Our hearts 
begin to pound
as we 

 envelops us


We bow

All of creation 
is still

is prostrate

The Mystery
Human form


Good News

to All

Rejoice, Rejoice
for you have liberated
All of

The Word

Will Simpson
Feast of the Epiphany
January 3, 2916

Saturday, February 28, 2015





Friday, February 27, 2015"A LIFE IN TRANSFORMATION"

Metamorphoo (Greek); Metamorphosis, Transfigure, Transform! These are the words we use to describe the process of life changing from one way to another .It is a reversal that occurs from within and is demonstrated by actions. It takes place in the very core of our being. It changes our thoughts, our movements, our perspective of how we see ourselves and others and it is renewal, being born anew, giving way for the true and authentic self. This transformation takes place when the Divine Christos, the Chosen One covers our very spirit with the oil of healing and calls into life our true selves. The Season of Lent, of renewal especially invites us to be mindful of this divine process. It is in this time that we experience the shifting of our interior being and participate in the emergence of our pure identity from one character to another.

Over the past few weeks I have had to allow this to take place in myself and I have also had the privilege of observing it in others. By grace I have been able to look at myself and my addictions and how I have been asked to go deeper and look attentively how they have controlled my life. How they have been used to anesthetize me, deceitfully comfort me and have kept me from sincerely seeing who I really am. Why? Because I have lived in the fear of seeing myself where I have been hurt, disappointed and disillusioned, where I have resisted the call to go deeper into the darkness of the caves of my heart. This has been painful but I have been given grace daily to move forward and to travel into these places. In and through this I can already see little by little the shackles being loosed, my breath becoming more relaxed and filled with the fresh air of hope and my entire being covered with the oil of healing. I am becoming aware and alive! This takes place slowly with surrendering, again by grace to the Christ of mercy, being accountable to others which gives me the courage and  permission to confess and in so doing become healed. I am calmly being drawn to who I really am. 

The focal point of my addictions is food. I have had the light of the Divine permeate my thoughts, words and actions. That light has brought illumination to the crevices of my mind and heart that have cried out to be helped, to be rescued and to be brought into rebirth! I have also received the oil of healing in the stories of others. They have proclaimed their stories, their journeys and their struggles which have been overcome by grace, unconditional love, acceptance and courage. They have been a healing balm and an example of lives transformed!

Who do you say I am?
You, Oh Christ are the anointed One, the one who pours out your healing oil to my very soul!

Thursday, February 19, 2015





I am always struck of the bareness of the church when I enter on Ash Wednesday. Everything  is covered, all signs of life, even the alleluias are not spoken for forty days! But yet there is a great silence, a quietness that invites my spirit to be still. It is as though all things have been put to sleep and is waiting in that silence. I look up and there is a plain cross and behind it is draped the color purple, the symbol of penance. I know this cross is inviting me to a deeper place, that place of sorrow, turning away from all the habits that hinder me. My addictions, fears, anxieties and my continued belief that I can do things on my own! This cross, this purple speaks to me just the opposite. It speaks with love, grace and mercy and invites me to receive these graces and unconditional love so I can be free. Free of the things that have hindered me this past year, months and days and sometimes my entire life! I am asked to turn away from them and to turn towards the cross and humble myself. Wow, what a concept to humble myself, it is so counterintuitive and countercultural. Lent though means spring and it is a time of renewal, letting go and the emergence of hope. I have not been promised that these forty days of Lent will be easy but I am promised new life and resurrection as I, by grace submit and let go to this amazing invitation that in time humbles me in a way that restores me and brings me deep peace. Are we not all sorry for things we have done, have failed to do? Do we not all have regrets and wished we had not done something? It is common unto all of humanity. Do we not all want to let go, turn from those hinderances and take a deep breath of freedom?

As I was walking to receive the ashes, I was also walking toward that plain cross. As the ashes were placed on my forehead and the sign of the cross was made I heard these words spoken; “From dust you have come, from dust you will return.” I knew I was in the Presence of the One who Created me, created me in the image and likeness of God…….I was humbled. For it is not I who is control, it is not I who can do it on my own (although often I think I can) but Christ in his mercy and love gives me the desire, softens my heart and moves me to change, repent if you will and to be transformed more deeply into that likeness and image deeply and authentically. It is here in these forty days that I experience death and in so doing I am renewed with the splendor of resurrection life!

“Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.” 

Phillippians 2:5-8

Humility (humble) is from the Latin word(s) humilitas, humilis which mean “of the earth,” low, grounded.”

I say, You Oh Christ are humble.

May each of us receive the graces of Lent, pour out our hearts and become renewed with Resurrection life!

Sunday, December 28, 2014


The year of 2014 has been filled with changes. It has brought new life and a deep gratitude for  my Creator and for each one of you who have journeyed with me. This includes my family, my community at St. Agnes Church in San Francisco, my Dog Park Community and my community in my neighborhood of Cole Valley. Each of you have played a part in encouragement, challenging me to move ahead and through it all you have exhibited love. I am also grateful to my friends on Face Book. Often we think and say what a waste of time this is but FaceBook has allowed me to stay in contact with those near and far bringing together those whom I have known for decades and those whom I have known but a short time.

After being in a wheelchair for over a year I finally received my prosthesis for my right leg in the middle of June. Through an amazing physical therapy team which includes not only UCSF but friends from my neighborhood and dog park but also my co-workers at Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa. It was there that I initially began to walk during the summer. It was here where I needed to be vulnerable and a bit dependent as I took my first steps with a walker, a cane and eventually on my own free of any support devices. I am grateful.

In July I became a board member for the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco. This is an organization for advocacy for people with disabilities and paving ways for independence and freedom. This includes programs, speaking out for disability rights and advocacy. I am grateful for this opportunity to serve in this capacity.

August brought a family reunion on my mother”s side of the family, the Ryan’s. It was so wonderful to see cousins I haven’t seen in decades but were so close to when we were children. It was filled with joy. I was able to visit my brother and sister, niece and great nieces, Wayne and Paula and I was able to spend significant time with my cousin whom I call Aunt Rosemary. She has in many ways been a second mother to me over the years. I also got to spend time with my cousin Mike, his wife Jackie and their son and daughter Sarah and Tony. Mike and I were mischief makers as kids and guess what? We still are! 

Lest I not forget the great lunch I had with some of my grammar, junior high and high school friends in Saratoga; Lynn Nutter Eddy, Susan Cramer Colleen Brundage, Maryanne Brundage Fredericks and Fred Lee. What a time it was reminiscing, looking at one another and thinking, Wow, we’ve not aged, we’ve grown richer and deeper and besides that we look great, just like we hadn’t aged much at all! Of course the lighting was a little dim, our vision isn't what it used to be but…….Hey!

I must also mention what a delight it was to spend time with an old, ok not old but long time childhood friend Tom Benson. 

Onward to Boston where I spent time with Rich Arnold, his lovely wife Carolina, beautiful daughter Gabriela and Matt her ever clever and humorous fiancee. Rich is like a brother to me and he and I have known each other since SUNY Albany days. Rich donated one of his kidneys to me in January, 2010 and saved my life in the process.

On October 28cannot I started my own business in medical case management, VENIA CASE MANAGEMENT. I have been blessed thus far with five clients. It is both exciting and scary. 

I have also been privileged to serve the poor and homeless this year in ways I never dreamt possible. I have gotten to know a number of people in the homeless community in our neighborhood and also have begun volunteering at the Wellness Center in San Francisco. The Wellness Center is part of a ministry through St. Vincent dePaul and many in our community at St. Agnes are a part of this. My hope is to begin a group called “Our Stories” which would encourage participants to share their stories, what gifts they believe they have and what have they done that day to encourage someone and to bring life and healing to them. I am also on an advisory board at the Wellness Center which is prayerfully discerning spiritual formation and spiritual direction. I am privileged to be a part of this. I also participated in early December at a retreat for Non Violent Communication. This was eye opening and it is my hope I will become more a part of this in this coming year.

Thank you, all of you for your love, encouragement, practical serving me when I was in need and your prayers. Words cannot express my true gratitude and the love I have for each of you.

May 2015 bring you peace in body, soul and spirit.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


This day is Holy Saturday, the period of silence, stillness and deep waiting. Yesterday was Good Friday and with it the profound suffering of humanity made manifest in the Crucifixion of Christ. My soul has been made tender, raw through these last couple of days as I have been keenly aware of this walk. This walk, as Christ's is mixed with passion, suffering and feeling alone. At moments it seems as though there is no hope and yet just as Jesus fell along his road with his cross and was offered help so it is in my life. Jesus' face was wiped, Simon the Cyrene assisted him with his cross when it became to heavy and none of this was comfortable.

In the past couple of days my walk has been full of disappointments, hopes seemingly dashed and discouragement often flooding my soul in such a way that I have had to stop. My cares, my cross seemed to heavy. I simply had to and have to acknowledge it! This is not comfortable but true. Just as Christ needed help from Simon to carry his cross, so I have needed help in carrying mine. This is a time of letting go, recognizing loss and being dependent, vulnerable. It is the place where faith is summoned to come alive and live in trust. There is a part of this that must be walked alone to do its work for it is a moment that I become face to face with Jesus' humanity and Christ's Divinity. It is humbling and it causes me to be struck in awe and fall prostrate within my soul.

Hope seems a far when crucifixion takes place. In death and burial is silence, stillness and great waiting. It is Holy Saturday.

As the day moves forward there will begin the tremors and rumbling within my soul and my spirit as the stone is quaked away from my heart.

Can you hear it?

Today is Holy Saturday, for now I wait in silence.