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News of her transition on February 17, 2022, grieved me. A ninety-year-old college graduate, mother, grandmother, widow, teacher, concert-trained pianist, seamstress, and volunteer, she fully tasted the joys and hardships of life.

Years of her daughter’s stories endeared me to her, especially when needing help to their rustic cabin, summers, spent at Donner Lake at Truckee, California. There, as cheerful matriarch and widow, she greeted relatives and friends, even the brown bears that wandered nearby.

After her daughter had tended the final needs of her father, the focus shifted to her mother who soldiered on, still volunteering at her church and the Chappaqua Library in New York. Her passion for books, her deep interest in people, her indomitable will fired her spirit and attracted others to her wisdom and humor. Only dementia and a cancer diagnosis slowed her down, until her Spirit-filled release last week.

So, when the mother did pass, all legal and medical and burial plans were in order, thanks to her daughter’s daily phone contacts and timely visits, often with her husband; these occurred over the years. Her selflessness to expend energy and resources, despite chronic illness, still moves me.

Her mother’s name was Marge. She will be missed.

“Well, it’s official, Liz,” the hospice nurse said, her smiling dark eyes peering over her mask. I sensed good news coming as she unzipped her sleeveless quilted vest and sat opposite the Valentine bouquet on my dining room table. “Medicare has re-certified you until mid-April. Another will follow, but unlike before, there will be no hesitation—you’re finally beginning to look like a hospice patient, both in our records and in your person.”

She was right. Despite eating regularly, my weight continues to drop due to poor metabolism sloughing off the nutrients. Other than smaller pants my sister bought me last November, I’m loathe to replenish what’s hanging in my closet. My belt buckle holds everything together and keeps me presentable. Bulky sweaters of many colors cover a lot. Rather than pitch an old pair of blonde corduroys, this morning, my helper patched the hole in the seat; such still keeps February’s nip at bay.

Besides, my new slimness is quite the fashion, from what I observe online.

When I reflect upon my clothes history, a close look at trends had directed my choices and expended money, better used for other things, especially charities that I traipsed by. Only in later years, the ugliness of department store clothing drove me to significant finds at Goodwill or the Scholarshop.

Aside from this trivia about clothing, a time will come when I step outside of time and have no need of clothing. For the present, though, it’s about preparing my wedding garment, one day at a time. This, I cannot do alone.

It’s the human condition. From the depths of scarred hearts emerge bruises, likened to neon flashing in crass colors on roof-top dumps. Only in night’s inky blackness can their evil be observed. Once aware of them, however, riddance is critical.

Such is my experience when side-winded by the unplanned, when beached upon foreign shores. It feels like my rootlessness rots in the scorching sun. More than ever am I alien to the once familiar. Such setbacks still occur, despite my daily vigilance and Twelve-Step living in Chronic Pain Anonymous.

I wait, my breathing crumpled like an accordion in the hairy hands of an amateur.

A closer look deepens shock-waves crashing around me: some of my bruises laced with entrails of sea birds; others, in stinking landfills.

I sit back in my chair and ponder where these words come from. I wait. More words come. My psyche glimpses the contours of my true shadow and informs me of more disorders likened to hard-shelled barnacles encrusted on the bottom of an abandoned lobster boat.

This lamentable image speaks of years unlived life, held in bondage by insidious fears of chronic illness and pain. But denial’s influence is lessening, the more I take responsibility during my end-time and surrender to God’s will. From hence comes true spiritual growth.

Often this mantra fills my psyche: Your will, not Mine, be done. Change comes, and with it, relief.

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