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“Here, I brought this for you to wear. It’s cozy and warm—One of our volunteers made it for our patients. They’re always doing such nice things for us,” said Christina, the CNA assigned to me for the night. Then, she handed me a white flannel gown with prints of small red cardinals perched upon bare branches.

Because last Friday night’s storm had knocked out the electrical power in my home, its restoration being uncertain, I obtained a respite bed at Evelyn’s House, the BJC freestanding hospice facility where I availed myself of their oxygen and nebulizer treatments for my lungs. I hoped to make my transition from this facility and welcomed the experience of its services. I was not disappointed.

Seasoned and skilled staff, still masked for protection from Covid, welcomed me and promptly came to my assistance when needed. Their responses to my questions orientate me to the facility and my private guest room with its tasteful framed prints affording colors of the outdoors. A large window and a glass-paneled door looked out upon the private patio with an iron table and chairs, a bird-feeder, a lush meadow with four-year old-trees, the age of this facility. Two fauns spent much of Saturday afternoon with me.

Covid restrictions kept me in my room where I continued my exercises, read 1776, the historical novel by David McCullough, and prayed for those around me. Not a sound from anywhere did I hear, those twenty-four hours I was there.

And during the night, the cardinal-print nightgown contoured my body with cushiony warmth. I’m grateful for my stay at Evelyn’s House, there being only sixteen guest rooms for the use of the entire BJC system. 

At 7:30 A.M., I awoke with this dream:

Suddenly, I’m aware of giggling and being hugged by my five-year old brother Mark, his warm body wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and sandals, the cowlick at his hairline giving him a striking appearance.

I’ll never know if “Mark” really visited me, or whether he represents a projection of the happy child from my unconscious. Either way, I perceive the dream as gift to be cherished.

He passed on July 21, 2017.

I miss him …

Twelve days into the structural collapse and later demolition of the North and South Chaplain Condominium in Surfside, Florida, the stories still seep into psyche like fine silt, sated with grief. This is too much, we gripe. Not this!

Denial, however, cushions its full impact for those close by and elsewhere. True, death has always been around, especially in our violent, disease-ridden world. But the magnitude of the Surfside disaster mirrors the sights, sounds, and smells of a war zone, comparatively few have experienced. 

Only today did I remember a response to all of this—the psychologist Dr. Edith Fiore who presented highlights of twenty years of research in her study, The Unquiet Dead (1987). Numerous afflicted clients flocked to her counseling room, complaining of unusual symptoms, likened to loved ones, snatched by death, “like the thief in the night.” Under therapeutic hypnosis, Dr. Fiore relieved these disorders and helped the too-quickly-dead in their transition to the next life; their unpreparedness had led them to become earthbound and seek a host body.

Later today, I listened to Samuel Barber’s Adagio of Strings (1938) that peaked in a luminous interlude, the strings shimmering in light: it felt like spirits rejoicing in their ascension. God does have a way of working things out …

Let us remember the Champlain Tower victims, especially those stuck in transition, and their loved ones in prayer.

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