by Deborah Knox on May 3, 2012

“What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live?”                    Mary Oliver, Long Life, “Flow”, 2004

The world appears more brilliant to me lately as my dear friend and colleague Nancy Brook passed away recently.  We were fortunate to be able to spend time together here in Tucson AZ, which she loved, just a few months ago.  I felt then I might never see her again.  Her struggle with cancer was nearing its end, after 9 years of struggle and reward, and lots of memories.

We were both career coaches in the Greater Boston area, before I split for Tucson and she and her husband moved to Maine. It was part of our encore careers or our 3rd Chapter.  Career counseling started in the 70’s and 80’s and we were attracted to it because we wanted to “do work we loved and make a difference.” Later we wanted to create a new lifestyle that reflected our reviewed and refined values, needs, and wishes which emerged in our later years. As a cancer survivor and a caregiver of a spouse, Nancy’s third career as a facilitator for caregivers, was emerging with her usual compassion and foresight, only to be cut short.

“What are you going to do with this one wild and precious life,” is the more popular quote you may associate with Mary Oliver.    But the above speaks more eloquently to what Nancy and I shared as two souls that found beauty in nature, our life work, and our friendship.

“What is the gift that I should bring to the world?”, say the words, Deb, “I so love the world I still inhabit I will do my best to be peace in this world.”

“What is the life I should live?”  One of integrity, truth and love. That is all that matters.  And what I learned from Nancy.

Finding and living an authentic life in the Third Chapter is what we were doing together.  Nancy’s  life is complete. Her Third Chapter was her Last Chapter.  This time of grieving has reminded me to ask, “Am I being true in bringing my gift to the world?  And am I living the life that I should?”  I hope so, for both of us, for all of us.  Are you?  Learn more at


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