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Two weeks it had been going on: burning feet jerking me awake, scattering dreams from awareness, and plunging me within dregs of misery. Bleary-eyed, I pulled myself out of bed and began ankle pumps to restore circulation, but only somewhat. Daytime walking hurt and disrupted my self-care routine for my terminal illness. Rather than use opiates offered by the hospice nurse, I researched other responses to this nerve pain.

One was from Foot Wakers by Yamuna: hollow rubber half-spheres covered with knobbles that stimulate sluggish circulation. While sitting at my computer, I ripple my bare feet over the top and sides of the knobbles: their tingling offers my bluish feet a holiday like none other. Even my hammertoes stretch out nicely. Days of such care have scotched the fire in my feet and restored my walking.

 

This experience opened me to the symbolic meaning of Foot Wakers: people, places, and things that pull us from the humdrum, put spirit in our steps, and ply melodies in our hearts—all carriers of God’s unconditional love in which we thrive.

Certainly years of Gloucester retreats combined all three: my spirited directors and other retreatants who came year after year; the kaleidoscopic beauty of the seascape; the delicious food and spartan accommodations. Salty silence relaxed my rigid ego, freshened my attitude, and pried open awareness of the Cosmic Christ in our midst. Eight days was never long enough.

 

Listening relaxes strangleholds that impound change within padlocked barriers.

Listening steels resolve to accept the unacceptable, with its terror of the unknown.

Listening encourages taking the next step wherever it leads, up or down, anywhere.

Listening eases raspy breaths until the next treatment, with the expulsion of fluids.

 

Listening stills the gibberish wheel whirling nonessentials into crazed perceptions.

Listening staunches imperatives that impound choices within sticky globs of paste.

Listening softens the jagged edges of anger intent upon maiming, grousing, lying.

Listening defuses pompous pretending like pricking helium balloons tied to gates.

 

Listening twizzles cacophony into harmonious rhythms that brilliance moods.

Listening unearths flickering images signaling critical change in the night sky.

Listening greens hope that hides out in recesses of stuffed closets and drawers.

Listening waters parched arroyos with decades of insect and animal detritus.

 

Listening enhances words that vibrate like dulcimers along mountain streams.

Listening teases shimmering pastels that titter in sunshine-drenched mornings.

Listening patches potholes of isolation and ignorance with significant connections.

Listening burgeons whispered prayer like striped camellia blossoms in full flower.

 

 

Such listening fosters obedience of the heart, authentic living, and growth in His likeness.

Mesmerized, I watched moths dive like Kamikaze pilots into flaming candles; the others circled off into darkness. It was summer, hot and humid, on the screened-in porch of the Moloney farm. Lost on me were conversations of my parents and others—about the hired help producing sufficient food to sustain our families during World War II. Then, I knew nothing about life or death.

In my perception, this image corresponds to the sick phase of being a hospice patient as described in Kathleen Dowling Singh’s book The Grace in Dying.

Routines of self-care, writing, and prayer fill my daylight hours, but nights are different. Then, psychic intrusions interrupt REM sleep and I’m wide-awake. Like the moth, a nocturnal insect, I cast about searching for light, anything to relieve the darkness of my mortality. I hurl myself upon the Crucified, YouTube Gregorian chants and presentations on contemplative prayer, silence, and solitude. Usually sources of inspiration, they remain cloaked in darkness. Hours pass. Talk show hosts and classical music also fill the time. And trips to the fridge assuage my physical hungers. At best, some sleep does come.

Other nights I do sleep and receive dreams that orient me toward the Soft Glow within my psyche. Then, I feel the warmth, the encouragement to continue trodding through this darkness and enduring this madness, without recourse to drugs. It will pass, I tell myself. And it will, with surrender.

Dawn’s faint light quickens my hope: another new day for listening and learning and sharing.

 

 

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