Relationship guru, renowned spiritual counselor and bestselling author Hugh Prather died at his Tucson home Monday. He was 72.
Prather gained international recognition for his book "Notes to Myself," which was published in 1970, sold 5 million copies and was translated in to 10 languages. The book stresses the need for the mind to let go of destructive images and fears.
Services for Prather, whom the New York Times once called "the American Kahlil Gibran," are scheduled for 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 28 at St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church, 4625 E. River Road.
A native of Dallas, Prather earned a bachelor's degree from Southern Methodist University, did graduate work at the University of Texas and wrote more than 20 books that emphasized the value of gentleness, loyalty and forgiveness.
"I feel blessed to have been with him for 45 years. I had been thinking about what we should do for our 50th anniversary," said his wife, Gayle, who found her husband slumped over in the family's hot tub Monday evening. The cause is believed to be a heart attack.
The Prathers met in 1965 when both were living in Dallas. They married on their second date, driving to Oklahoma to tie the knot in the middle of the night.
"We were sitting in the car and he just asked if I'd like to get married. I said I guess so. We did not know each other and we barely spoke on the way to Oklahoma," Gayle said. "We both thought we were having a psychotic event. … We started with low expectations."
But the relationship turned into a solid one. The couple had two sons, ran relationship seminars, did relationship counseling and wrote extensively about relationships.
"We had serious ups and downs but we had my persistence that I was not going to leave him; I loved him. We also had his realization that you are not your past," Gayle said. "He'd had a deep distrust of love. He believed a woman would leave you. We talked about this a lot. He had an awakening, a recognition that you don't have to act out these things that have happened to you in the past, that you can walk away from it.
"When he did finally get faith in love, he could give it to everyone. He could touch people's lives."
In Santa Fe, N.M. the couple founded an all-volunteer ministry called The Dispensable Church. When the collection basket was passed, parishioners could either put money in or take it out. The church motto was, "Your purpose as a teacher of God is to make yourself dispensable."
When the couple felt the church had served its purpose, they dispensed with it.
The family moved to Tucson in 1990 and immediately got involved with St. Francis in the Foothills, where Prather often taught, preached and led meditation services.
"He had tremendous wisdom in a humble way," said the Rev. David Wilkinson, the church's senior pastor. "He was nonviolent almost to the extreme and very inspiring in that regard. Hugh and Gayle together were a very inspiring team. It was a spiritual dance of shiva, an amazing phenomenon."
Prather's favorite song was "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," which will be part of his funeral service.
"That was his philosophy of life - jump into the river of life and row gently down the stream," Wilkinson said. "He felt our belief systems hold us back when we stick with our beliefs rather than going with the flow."
In spite of its success, Prather did not consider "Notes to Myself" as his greatest achievement.
"I can see the antecedents of my core faith in that diary, but I think I was a little too self-absorbed," he told the Star in 2008. "Hopefully, I have come to better understand that it's our inner connection with others and not just our inner awareness of a separate self that brings us a truly satisfying life. Unless we feel our sameness, our oneness, life is very difficult."
Of all his books, Prather was most satisfied with "Morning Notes," released in 2005, Gayle said.
"Morning Notes" was a collection of 365 meditations, "to wake you up." Of love, he said: "Love, which contains no aggression, flows through anyone who does not resist it. Today I am willing to fulfill the function Love has assigned me. I am willing to be and to feel like the image and likeness of God."
Prather recently completed "The Little Book of Mistakes." His wife finished editing it the day he died.
"The idea was that people get all this stuff throughout the day - someone cuts you off, your heart beats fast, you are angry. It's the stuff that accumulates through the day and the main philosophy is what to do about these things," Gayle said. "How can you relax into your life and into what is happening now? It's ways to just look at the things that really kill us, and make us miserable that don't have to. Of course, he would have put that much better."
In "The Little Book of Mistakes," Prather says that endlessly rewriting one's mistakes does not correct, nor does projecting the likelihood of future mistakes.
"However, when we persist in looking for and finding what there is to value within our self, we discover a pure and loving being," he wrote. "This then allows us to see our self in others. Now we are operating from strength. 'Love thy neighbor as thyself' is the great transformative potential we all possess."
Prather is survived by his wife; son John, daughter-in-law Debra and granddaughter Jocelyn, of Phoenix; son Jordan, of Tucson; half-brothers Alan Prather and Jeffrey Prather, of Dallas; and half-sister Joan Prather, of Malibu, Calif.
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4134.