In the shadow of your wings, I will sing your praises, O Lord. Psalm 63:10

 

 

 

Readers can move an author’s hand to further flesh out a significant character depicted in one of her books. This happened to Heather Morris in her historical novel, The Tattooist at Auschwitz (2018). Within the wake of this New York Times Best Seller, millions of emails asked about Cilka, a close friend of Gita, another Slovakian Jew in the Nazi death camp.

Subsequent research afforded minimal information about Cilka Klein (1926-2004), fluent in six languages, outstanding for her physical beauty, and wise beyond her sixteen years. Not only did she survive nightly rapes by two senior commandants, not only was she responsible for the women in Hut 25 before being gassed, she survived until the camp’s 1945 liberation by the Soviet Army. However, her new interrogators judged her a collaborator and sentenced her to fifteen years of hard labor at the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia.

 Here, Cilka’s Journey (2019), the novel begins, embellished by Morris’s secondhand research. Sparse prose engages her readers’ involvement as we follow Cilka, hardened to the core, her senses jaundiced, bereft of any vestige of the feminine. Yet, she adjusts, carefully, among her new captors and hut mates. Despite starvation diets, ragged clothing, long and brutal winters, despite death claiming overworked victims, Cilka’s presence empowers those around her to feel, even smile. Years pass. Occasional laughter trips the nightly gloom in their hut while crocheting threads torn from bed sheets into wall decorations.

Central to Cilka’s psychic transformation are a woman doctor, Yelena Georgiyevna, and Alexandr, another inmate. Through them, Cilka envisions a personal future that softens her into the loving woman she was destined to become.

Cilka’s Journey is a significant read for those involved in the Sacred work of transformation, one day at a time.

 

 

Last night’s crazies blasted scattered scatter-shot through the denial of my ILD. As Dr. Singh teaches, such eruptions from the unconscious are not untoward: they alert patients to the reality of their terminal illness.

Hunger first woke me at midnight. After a snacking on an orange and buttered toast, I padded back to my bedroom, put on my oxygen, then pulled the covers over my head.

Wide-awake forty-five minutes later, I squinted at the street lamp outside my window. It was still snowing: its flakes chilled the core of my being. After I flipped my afghan atop the comforter, I sought the nether regions of my bed, but was still cold. Then, I grabbed my radio and searched my favorite stations—nothing of interest, there. Like ski jumpers arching their bodies in mid-air, tension mounted in my chest, only to be sucked within darkness.

One half-hour later, I rubbed sleep from my eyes and sat up on the side of my bed. I began rocking; their repetitions eased some tension and I squirreled back under the covers in hope of sleep. Again, I stared up at the ceiling tiles. Next, came leg circles atop the covers, but quit after two repetitions because of heel soreness.

Then I remembered the Lorazapan, still bagged with the other drugs in the kitchen cabinet, provided with my hospice sign-up. Dare I take one? Cut the dose in half? See what would happen? Decades of having taking ineffective drugs for my rheumatoid arthritis still freaked me out.

I did take the Lorazapan: .2 mg. It helped, but I was hung-over this morning—more adjustment to my sick role fortified by the acceptance prayer. This is working out.

 

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