At 6:00 A. M., I awoke with this dream:

On Sunday morning, the director of nursing says she is understaffed in her home, nearby, and asks me to volunteer, sight unseen. I disregard my plans and hurriedly put on my new white uniform, white hose, and tie shoes and set out. As I pull open the door of the women’s ward, the stench from urine and bowel almost causes me to retch. Rumpled sheets from iron-frame beds lay in tangled knots on the sticky floor. None of the women have had morning care and shuffle around, some of their gowns unfastened in the back. Listless and uncaring, aides stack trays for lunch. The nurses’ desk is empty. I’m appalled and don’t know what to do.

This dream suggests significant regression in my psyche: the director of nursing manipulates me to help her in her home, despite my spending Sunday mornings in prayer and reflection that better serve my needs.

This lack of decision-making is a behavior pattern that dominated my formative years, one that still surfaces: this time likely provoked by pushing myself to complete the daily routine I set for myself; as if its completion will slow down the diminishment of the pesky symptoms of my terminal illness—the diminishment is happening anyway.   

In the dream, the alacrity with which I put on my new white uniform, white hose, and tie shoes suggests an opportunity for which I had been waiting all my life. In reality, that nurse’s uniform duplicates the one I had worn as a seventeen-year-old aide, though a bit snug around the waist, in a fan-cooled hospital.

And the mayhem in the women’s ward reflects the piecemeal handling of the anxiety of my mortality, beneath the surface of my consciousness. Among them circulate many directors of nursing waiting for moments to interject the “shoulds coupled to obsessive thinking and indecision.”

Deeper discernment is needed, and for that I call upon God for proper direction. Time is short. I’ve little time to spend in bedlams.