"I am like an old car — fix one thing and something else breaks down. Though I am in better shape than most people on the face of the earth, I still feel like I have donated my body to medical research. Here I am, a young guy wondering how he got trapped in an old geezer's body," writes Bob Herhold, a chaplain of Veterans for Peace who lives in Palo Alto, California. The 82-year-old author shares stories about his Christian understanding of death with pieces on faith, forgiveness, prayer, and gratitude.

We liked his essay on the baseball player Jackie Robinson who "faced death the way he would steal home, knowing that he could be tagged out, but confident that whatever the score, the effort was worth it." Equally pleasing is Herhold's advice that a wonderful gift the young can give to their elders is listening to their stories.

But the chapter that hit home the most for us was the one on the author's friendship with Joseph Sittler, who was for many years professor of theology at the Chicago Lutheran School of Theology in Maywood and at the Chicago Divinity School. This teacher and preacher was one of the most literate Christians ever to stand in front of a class or preach a sermon. He punctuated his talks with literary references, and his language was both lush and impressive. Sittler was a Lutheran who always heralded God's grace and he found examples of it everywhere he looked. Before it was popular to do so, Sittler called Christians to a loving and caring relationship with the Earth. Herhold salutes this extraordinary theologian and quotes him as saying:

''The fear of death, I'm convinced, is at the bottom of all apprehensions. To say of any of us that we do not fear death is a lie. To be human is to fear death. To love life is to hope and to wish not to leave it. And all people fear death. I think that it is one off the most creative fears there is because it bestows a value, an affection and a gratitude for life which otherwise there would not be. That is what the Psalm (90) means by the statement 'So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.' ".