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“This is the Body of Christ, Liz,” she said placing the cross-incised wafer into my outstretched palms and returning to the chair in my study. Silence of communion etched innate belonging upon our psyches; we gleamed with the gift.

Only after raising my eyes did I begin to speak. “Thanks, Bridget, it’s been a long time. I so appreciate your coming to my home this morning,” I said, scooting back in my arm chair and noting the sun’s glimmer upon a cardinal’s wings, in flight. Before her arrival, I wondered what we’d have to share. Yet, words came easily, despite my departure from the church seventeen years ago, caused by a significant dream.

“I’m also glad to see you again, Liz. Your home is lovely, so welcoming. How long have you lived here?” And so, the conversation grew, with intervals of laughter.

In her younger years, Bridget had taught religious education to the parish children, then, went on for a degree in theology in spiritual direction and retreats, all the while, raising children with her husband, still an avid chess player. Her interest in my life experiences led to questions about my terminal illness.

“Do know that your name appears in the weekly bulletin—among the ill parishioners? Although you are not physically among us, we come to each of you, in prayer, Fridays at the church.” Of special note were her strong hands with a simple gold band and her lively eyes filled with life’s rough and tumble amusement.

Before we separated, I asked, “Bridget, will you remove your mask so I can see your face? It’s been a while.”

In the ensuing moment, unspeakable joy fused us to Another. The Gift deepens.

At 7:30 A. M., it was difficult waking from this celebratory dream:

I was initially alone, walking the country roads. Sunshine emboldened the trees, shrubs, meadows, even the dusty road curving ahead of me. After I turned the next bend, faint strains of guitars, rhythmic instruments, songs in all languages met me; the closer I got, the more distinct the strains. Then, a tall colorful character, dressed in scarlets and feathers blew a reed pipe, the breezes swirling the decorative ribbons attached to his wrists. Behind him, laughing children skipped and hopped making merry. As he approached other children sitting in the middle of the road, he handed them an instrument from his sack and invited them to join their celebration—a tambourine fell into mine and I began dancing with the others. 

At length the celebratory dance concluded, with promises to return next year. My heart felt heavy.

It was a gift to remember this dream, given the racing effects of my nightly “Cocktail”: small amounts of liquid morphine to help with breathing and lorazepam, with sleep. For months, mornings have been a tumble of splintered dreams that quickly fade, only leaving a brief residue of feelings.

In this dream, I am ecstatic. The appearance of a tall colorful character, likely Creator God in disguise, seemed intent upon actualizing everyone’s birthright before making their transition. Conceivably, the laughing children have already attained theirs.

But sadness concludes the dream

Still another year must pass before I’m permitted to celebrate another celebration with the tall colorful character, dressed in scarlets and feathers—Perhaps, referencing my own demise, burdened by more practice of my tambourine.

But this glance into my psyche gives me hope. I’ll know where to find Him.

At 4 A.M, this disturbing dream awoke me; it seemed to continue until 6:50 A.M. when I climbed out of bed to record it:

I was sitting in the locked ward of the day room of an old psychiatric hospital. The poorly groomed patients wore faded gowns that tied in the back, their feet bare. The staff was rowdy, handled them rough, especially when administering injections or medications, or subduing them in four-point restraints. The noise was deafening. I’m not sure why I was there. The morning wore on. Then, Father Reinert, the Jesuit President of St. Louis University, was let into the day room where with a sorrowful look he signed the Guest Book with a large black fountain pen.

Such upheaval in my psyche suggests the insanity of profound disorientation: despair, drugged violence, lack of focus and voice, and lack of body awareness. Extreme poverty assigns them as wards of the already impoverished state. Their caregivers hate their duties but see no way to better themselves. Like flotsam floating atop oceans, there is no communication.

The flap of two of my caregivers may have given rise to this dream and my needless dependence upon them, especially since I am managing without them.

Indeed, my psyche also bore the smells of that setting that resembled the old St. Louis State Psychiatrist Hospital on Arsenal Street, my 1983 assignment for my ACPE training in chaplaincy. In both that summer experience and the dream, the challenge is to recognize my internal mayhem lest it infect others and impede the trajectory of my end-times.

The presence of Father Reinert, the Jesuit President of St. Louis University, in the day room was a surprise, given his habitual cheerfulness. Perhaps he was coming to see me. I need guidance.

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