Two hard things happened after Bernie’s major stroke. The first was coming to grips with the fact that our life won’t be what it was. The second was bearing witness to the things my husband wanted or needed, and that I could not provide. In face of suffering and disappointment, my big challenge is not to react. There are unfulfilled wants and needs, curves no one expected. Cultivating curiosity about what’s around that bend has never been easy for me.” | “I have walked dogs while leaves are falling over many years. Stanley will be 13 shortly and I find myself wondering if this is his last fall, just as I wondered a few months ago if that was his last summer and I will probably ask the same question about winter when we walk on the snow. And I wonder what it would be like one day for both of us to lie down in the woods because we’re tired or our legs hurt, and never get up again.” | “Years ago I took a course on how to raise money. I was told that, when meeting a potential donor, the hardest thing isn’t to ask for a specific donation, the hardest thing is to ask and THEN SHUT UP. I can apply that lesson to the most mundane of circumstances: “How are you?” I ask someone. And now, Eve, shut up and listen.” | “Bernie’s physical therapist doesn’t want Bernie to favor the left leg, which he feels, over the right, which he can’t feel after the stroke: “Don’t stand on the leg you know can hold you,” he tells him. “Stand on the leg you don’t know can hold you.” Let go of what you know, the working limb that gives you confidence, and lean on the other side, the side you don’t trust, that you can barely make out is there.” | “I didn’t grow up on Mother Goose rhymes, I grew up on my mother’s stories of the Shoah and what she had had to do to survive. These were tales of death but also grit and courage, and they’ve influenced me from the time I was a girl.” | “Bernie was about to go out on an errand yesterday when I saw him standing at the door, his funny hat framing a sweet and happy face. I tried to capture the image right there, not a great photo by any means, just a casual, intimate moment that I may go back to years hence to remember how happy we were.” | “Nothing deters Stanley and me from our daily expeditions to the woods, not even shooting and the occasional glimpses of men in hunting gear with guns.” | “I am an immigrant, having come to the US at the age of 7. I remember tiptoeing silently down the hallway back then and listening to my parents talk in their bedroom about money, about how to pay bills and afford schoolbooks and clothes. Often the words they repeated were: What will happen?”


“I’m off, Stanley,” I whisper at 4:45 am, bending down to kiss him on his nose. I’d just woken Bernie upstairs to say goodbye, and now I do this to the black dog lying by the dining table downstairs, where he prefers to sleep because it’s so much cooler than in the bedroom.

“Where ya going?”

“To South Dakota, for the Native American retreat.”


The answer seemed obvious 9 months earlier, but not now. Leaving is never clear.

Losing personal independence is probably no joy for anyone anywhere, but is there a culture in the world that hates dependence as much as our own, here in America? Is there a culture in the world that admires independence and rugged individualism more, which looks down so contemptuously on those needing food assistance and welfare support? I listen to parents express their enormous pride in how their children are becoming more independent, which often seems more important than how good, kind, or generous they are.

But personal dependence is ahead for all of us, if we’re lucky enough to age and get sick. Nobody seems to be ready for it.

Back when Bernie was in rehab after his stroke, I saw patient after patient yell at family members and therapists about not needing help. My own 90 year-old mother, contemplating 2 months without her Indian live-in caregiver, adamantly refused to get a substitute. “I don’t need anybody, I haven’t fallen once this entire year,” she says angrily. “You also haven’t prepared one meal, one cup of coffee, or gone anywhere on your own,” I remind her. She doesn’t want to be reminded.

Listening to our politicians, you’d think that the biggest crisis facing our nation is mothers and children and the elderly needing help. Aging friends spend less time reflecting on their lives and preparing for what comes and more in resentment and anger at how needy they’ve become, how reliant on family members or caregivers.

Needing help is ahead for all of us. I am grateful to the Man and Stan for accepting dependence with simplicity and grace. Bernie gets drinks, glasses and cutlery as he patiently waits for me to finish making dinner. He walks outside with someone always at his side and accepts help with putting on jackets or even with pulling the heavy blanket over his body. Not once, not once, has he complained or second-guessed what life has given him. He shows no nostalgia for his past, not once has he reminded me of the times when he was so fiercely independent, chomping away gleefully on his cigar. He has no interest in cigars now.

Stanley waits patiently for a butt lift to get into the car. He doesn’t say Don’t touch me, he doesn’t say I can do this myself leave me alone, I hate this. He seems as happy as ever for a car ride, a slow walk in the woods even as things have changed.

It’s getting harder and harder to take him into the woods. The cataracts almost cover his eyes and he slips and falls. Unlike when we walk on the road, which is clear and without obstructions, in the woods, where he’s unleashed and free, he’s more liable to trip over things. He looks back a lot to place where I am, unlike previous years when he pursued alternative trails, running down the slope for a drink of water from the creek or chasing smells, knowing our meeting place by the pools of water that gush down to the creek. Now he stays by my side. His days of independence are gone. We get closer and closer, the world grows smaller, and he moans in his sleep.

“Bye, Stan,” I whisper to him.


The Dogs of the Kiskadee Hills: Hunt for the Lynx begins a trilogy about a society of dogs after humans have destroyed themselves and much of the world. Living with their families and clans in the Kiskadee Hills, they’ve developed over generations a rich tradition and way of life, and have prospered. But now, an unknown killer is butchering the Kisdees of the Hills.

Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges says: “You will never look at dogs the same again. Eve Marko gives us a story that explores the path that life on our planet has taken, and asks what your role in that course might be.”


Eve Marko - Bearing Witness

To bear witness to anything is to be as close to it as possible.

It’s not to read books or see movies about it, it’s not to have an opinion or tell a story. It’s to let go of all ideas about it—be in the space of not-knowing—and simply be there, up close and deeply personal.

Eve has been involved with the Zen Peacemaker Order’s Bearing Witness Retreats—in places of suffering and conflict since her first visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

There have been 20 retreats at the site of those concentration camps since, along with retreats in Bosnia, Rwanda and the Black Hills of South Dakota, near the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Upcoming Bearing Witness Retreats:

Bosnia, May 2016 (Please email for details)


Eve Marko

Eve Marko is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, head teacher at the Green River Zen Center in Massachusetts, and a Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order.

She has trained spiritually-based social activists and peacemakers in the US, Europe and the Middle East alongside her husband, Bernie Glassman, and has been a Spiritholder at retreats bearing witness to genocide at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Rwanda, the Black Hills in South Dakota, and Bosnia. Before that she worked at the Greyston Mandala for a decade, which provides housing, child care, jobs, and AIDS-related medical services in Yonkers, New York.

Eve’s articles on social activists have appeared in the magazines Tikkun and Shambhala Sun, and her collection for lay Zen practitoners, The Book of Householder Koans, will come out in late 2016. Her great love, Hunt for the Lynx, the first in her fantasy trilogy, The Dogs of the Kiskadee Hills, will come out in early 2016.

“When I was a young girl my dream was to be a hermit, live alone, and write serious literature. That’s not how things turned out. I got involved with people. I got involved in the world.

Two things matter to me right now: the creative spark and the aliveness of personal connection. In some way, they both come down to the same thing.”