Joyce Rupp is one of our Living Spiritual Teachers. She is well-known for her work as a writer, a spiritual "midwife," a retreat leader, and a conference speaker. A member of the Servite (Servants of Mary), she has led gatherings throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Rupp is the author of many books including her most recent Open the Door. Praying Our Goodbyes is the second edition of a book she wrote in 1988 which has sold over 250,000 copies.

As Rupp notes at the outset, we are all touched by gain and loss, joy and sorrow, life and death, union and separation. One of the many challenges in the spiritual life is not to allow suffering and loss to immobilize us or plunge us into depression but to carry on with courage and hope. Although many of us identify the word "goodbye" with bittersweet partings, there is another way of seeing it:

"The word goodbye — originally 'God-be-with-ye' or 'Go-with-God' — was a recognition that God was a significant part of the going. When you dreaded or feared the journey there was strength in remembering that the One who gave and cherished life would be there to protect and to console. Goodbye was a blessing of love, proclaiming the belief that if God went with you, you would never be alone, that comfort, strength, and all the other blessings of a loving presence would accompany you."

Rupp begins with a meditation on the existential ache we feel within us that is related to our restlessness and our yearning for connection with God. A second ache stems from our painful goodbyes to parents, spouses, children, and friends. The author asks us to ponder these farewells and to confront what they mean to us. In the next section, Rupp deals with suffering and makes it clear that God is not behind the accidents, deaths, disease, and tragedies we experience. In the midst of these goodbyes, God is present with us as a loving and caring presence. Rupp shares some of the one-liners participants in her workshops have used to carry on in the midst of troubles: "This, too, will pass." "One day at a time." "God will provide." "No pain-no gain." "Be good to yourself." "Life is what we make it."

Jesus suffered creatively and provides a model for us to follow. He made his pain into a source of growth and so can we. During hard times, it is wise to realize that all is on loan to us and nothing lasts forever. Clinging to the past or possessions or what we once had in a relationship only makes things worse. We are all pilgrim hearts and Exodus people. During our spiritual journey, we learn to pray our goodbyes through recognition, reflection, ritualization, and reorientation. We can better deal with our suffering and losses when we surrender to God, let go, find healing, cherish kinship, and recover hope.

The last section of this book presents a series of prayers, complete with ritual elements, for those experiencing goodbyes. They acknowledge the cutting edge of grief and the anxieties accompanying suffering and loss. Rupp creatively presents images to spur meditation; for example, a pair of shoes to remind us of the constant movement both on the outside and the inside of us. These prayers speak to many different kinds or losses and sorrows and offer hope and encouragement.