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“They want us to wear masks when we see patients—as a precaution,” she said, her brown eyes warming as she pulled open the screen door and stepped inside. It was Kassie, the nurse practitioner, come to evaluate my continued participation in hospice, per the Medicare guidelines. She had called earlier. “I’m glad to meet you, Liz. Alice tells me how well you’re doing—you lead the way.”

Still dizzy from the nebulizer treatment, I took slow deliberate steps supported by my cane toward the dining room table and sat down. Instead of a computer, Kassie withdrew a yellow pad from her case, began questioning my symptoms, then added them to the penciled notes she’d taken from my chart. “Now, let me listen to your lungs—Yes, lots of crackles as I suspected—still yellow when you cough it up?” I nodded, covering my mouth and leaned back in my chair.

“And no change in the measurement of your arm since last time,” she added collapsing the tape measure with slim fingers. “Still 19—from my findings, Liz, you’re still eligible for hospice.” I breathed easier, glad for Alice’s and Eunice’s guidance.

As Kassie prepared to leave, she appeared serene in her blue scrubs, unmoved by the pandemic’s challenges. “Yes, since my husband’s also an essential worker, we’re taking turns homeschooling our nine year old. Our five year old’s still in the hospital’s day care with most of his friends.” Her brown eyes smiled as she spoke, her thick brunette hair swept up into a bun enhancing her loveliness. “And last night, it was such fun making supper in the kitchen. That’s never happened before. I’m sure we’ll do it again.”

Her spirit’s flexibility touched mine.

 

It was eerie: emptiness discomfited me, gnarled at the crusts of my innards, and scraped barnacles from my imagination while the sun-drenched afternoon toasted new budding on the snowflake viburnum outside my study window.

No parents walking their kids home from the elementary school in the next block, no service trucks plying their trades, no deliveries from UPS or FedEx changing gears on our court, no tools whirring or hammering changes into the power lines or landscape.

As a solitary dog-walker trudged up the hill, her chest heaving, a creeping emptiness knifed my sense of life.

I sat in my wing-back chair, closed my eyes, and waited. I remained uneasy and surrendered. Yet, a new courage emboldened me to listen. Within the emptiness an uncanny sense of the Sacred emerged, a wisdom not found in human discourse or books. This was something else.

It hurt: one of the faces of grief.

Yet, a wise potter once said, “We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds what we want.”

Creator God of ever-expanding universes, be mindful of Planet Earth’s contagion that seeks new hosts to infect, new reversals to upend, new spirits to crush. Protect us from whoever or whatever foisted this ghoulish scourge upon us.

Continue deepening our willingness to contain its spread, whatever the cost. Continue humbling us before its enormity whose duration lies in the unknown. Continue prodding our conscious participation in each twenty-four hours. Continue helping us be mindful of others and their needs.

Our lives and livelihoods hang in the balance of this global upheaval, fraught with dark wisdom. From this crucible of suffering must emerge fresh paradigms for more meaningful care for each other and for Planet Earth.

Help us become aware of these patterns as they surface and practice them. We renew our trust in Your gift of Life: each moment, so precious.

Amen.

 

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