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Like a room filled with seasoned quilters, their needles keeping time with their stories, messes of tree sparrows sputter, peep, and shrill skirting the budding branches of the mature verbena shrub in front of us. Around its base, clusters of daffodil blades promise splashes of yellow. I’m perched upon a guardrail along the asphalt path, my chest heaving, while my caregiver keeps an eye on me. Despite the difficulty of these short walks, my diseased lungs benefit from the stretching.

Then, it’s time to start moving again. With my caregiver steadying my left forearm, my cane in my right hand, we walk in tandem along the road in my neighborhood. Above us, the Delph blue sky exalts with clarity, while sunrays toast our backs. Yards have been scraped of winter’s indiscriminate trashing, flowerbeds cleared for blooming. Mindful of gumballs or other tree debris, I focus upon taking the next step; when a clean space opens before me, I latch onto the curving line of the asphalt that helps maintains my balance. My caregiver senses when a pause is critical. The air chills my cheeks as I rest.

Aside from participating in the greening world humming with new color, I also appreciate meeting dog walkers, joggers, or others out for a stroll. In this venue, there’s no place for discord. Masks cannot conceal heart-smiles.

It s precisely heart-smiles that evidence our blooming, whatever the season.

Plants and Flowers: Narcissus buds

Summer’s brazenness fleshes out in marigolds—reds, oranges, golds, and yellows—drought-resistant annuals that have brightened my front garden for years. With proper care, a single bloom can last for several days boasting in the sun; its inevitable shriveling and browning slows down its gossip until silenced by pruning shears: Snip-snip-snip. Within a few days, more buds jostle in breezes until full flowering picks up July’s chuckles and their chatter resumes.

Taught by gardeners to angle my shears for strategic cuts, I snipped away, summer after summer, tingling with creative energy as new shapes appeared among the plants, soon to plump out with buds. But my present circumstances have led me to put away my shears and let another help with the marigolds. I’m grateful.

My own pruning is well underway, and I live within the shorn limits of my eighty-four years; within them, I continue flourishing, not without occasional squalls of fear: eruption of new symptoms from Dexamethasone, the correction of dark dreams, episodes of nausea, spills, and so much more—all of which prompt me to ask for help, critical for the continuing effectiveness of the pruning. How else learn about humility?

Such deepens my faith in the Master Gardiner who reminds us in John 15:2 that Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

It is for this fruit that I yearn.

 

The sudden drop in energy felt like a freight elevator in free fall: I could not inhale.

Slowly, I lowered myself upon the kitchen stool and took stock: I was on E, for empty, my brain feathery, my breathing flailing against my chest wall. Ashen whiteness eclipsed my thoughts and feelings. Then, the distress stopped. I inhaled, sipped water from my cup, and caught my neighbor’s flowering red-bud tree outside my window, its frothy pinkness the epitome of String’s effervescence.

More evidence of my lungs’ diminished functioning gave me pause. True, I’d cut back on the dose of Dexamethasone, but with that correction, my limited world was joggled back to life. Again, I could access words, the building blocks of psychic growth: without them, I am lost.

As with any terminal illness, mine teaches vital lessons of trust, each twenty-four hours allotted me. I had no say in the circumstances that birthed me over eighty-four years ago, and I’ve none as to when I leave. Death in my body will occur when it will.

So this episode in my kitchen is just another, and not that important to get worked up about. In time, this will change, and such a change it will be.

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for them that love him… (I Cor 2:9)

Such has been promised to us …

 

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