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I stand corrected…

Soon I will begin my ninth month in hospice care—a period of waiting, praying, and blogging about my terminal illness: Interstitial Lung Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Yet, my body shows no signs of dying, other than weakness, shortness of breath, and the wear and tear of eighty-four years.

Little did I realize that musing in the ambulance—I wonder of this will be a life changing event—would, in fact, come true. That was in June 2017 when I tripped over the cord of my vacuum cleaner and fractured several bones. Surgeries, rehab, and two months of personal care in my home followed this event. Still, I thought, in time, I’d return to my former level of functioning. That did not happen, but I failed to see the obvious implications: my body was old and no doctoring could fix that.

Hidden from me was the abhorrence of old age with its spend-saver diminishments. That was not for me. Because I observed the directives of my Pilates coach, I imagined my elder years with full functioning. Besides, our mother lived to be ninety-nine years old.

Rather than focus upon my end-time, as if I’m unique in that regard, I choose to open up the riches packed within the gift of old age: prayer, singing, listening, story telling, and laughing, gifts found in Shakespeare’s King Lear. Perhaps there are still more gifts, unknown to me at this blogging, with their incentive to renew my trust in Creator God, the source of my words.

Indeed, the end of my existence will come, but not before I’ve lived fully in old age, a new container for my psyche.

 

 

 

 

Exam rooms, an image, found in Stories of Hope – Living in Serenity with Chronic Pain and Illness (2012), jarred awareness of my bleak past. Decades of autoimmune disease had led me to frequent them, whether in hospitals, clinics or medical buildings. As I relocated from city to city, I sought out the best internists, rheumatologists, and surgeons, their names and institutions stitched above the pockets of their starched medical coats.

Within the narrow confines of exam rooms, I waited partially disrobed, my list of questions curling in perspiring hands. To distract myself, I studied lurid charts of diseases on the walls, peeked through blind-covered windows to the streets below, thumbed through dog-eared trade magazines, listened for footfalls in the corridor. I also prayed. And then the door would click open, my doctor, followed by fellows and medical students filling the space between us.

The routine was much the same: the narration of raw symptoms and ineffective drugs prescribed from the previous visit, the doctors’ touch upon inflamed joints, orders for x-rays and lab work ups, and then, the plan: surgery or return in one month. Little helped. I still hobbled, over-smiling the grimacing.

Now that I’m under the care of the hospice medical director, there are no more exam rooms—Only my dining room with fresh tulips, frequented by sensitive and caring nurses and the chaplain. It is from this room that I’m preparing for my transition, one day at a time. Deep is my joy and gratitude.

Watery breathing lapped the silence as I sat in my prayer-chair, the afternoon sun shifting slow-moving angles onto the hardwood floor—A cough, then a second one, evidenced my need for a nebulizer treatment. Such interruptions stamped its impress upon my old body’s malfunctioning like a signet ring upon molten wax, permanent, incapable of being removed.

Yesterday’s visit with my hospice nurse confirmed my hunch that increasing weakness signaled the worsening of my terminal illness, inching along in its progression. That confirmation evoked a major shift in my psyche, nudging me a tad deeper within the prickles of grief. For months, sadness has swamped me like a surfer’s breaking wave, almost drowning me until its release. Oceanic tears, I’ve yet to experience but their presence is mounting.

However, in-breaking moments of acceptance lift the pall of gloom and free me to rejoice in what’s coming—and that for all eternity.

Such fresh Love awaits all of us, even now, in prayer…

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