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Grace is like ebony wetness seeping into the chinks of my terminal illness: This, too, must be transformed—and so it is, instant by instant. Today, I’m fully alive.

“Your eyes look great. Just like last time,” said my ophthalmologist as she moved aside the slit lamp and turned on the light. “That burning in your eyes is related to dry eyes—These drops should help, in time.” The cheerfulness in her voice soothed the disconnect from the world around me.

Housebound since before the pandemic, I had no experience of its upheaval. As I stepped from my front door with my helper, I sensed a different kind of heaviness, unrelated to the heat and humidity. From her air-conditioned car, my concerns mounted: crabgrass cracking the roads, $1.87 for a gallon of gas, slow-moving cars, empty parking lots, no rush hour traffic, no congestion on the highway straddled by four-foot weeds, pots of scraggly petunias affixed to overhead streetlights near the medical center, no congestion at Valet Parking near the entrance, and one wheelchair-sized-revolving door closed.

After helped into a wheelchair, my portable oxygen and mask in place, I breathed deeply and looked around. We moved through the other revolving door toward the masked staff who screened us, took our temperatures, then affixed labels to our shirts. Only a handful of masked patients in the lobby, only two allowed in the elevator at a time, only one patient and helper admitted to the doctor’s waiting room—the chairs positioned at odd angles, the side tables stripped of magazines and pamphlets, the lighting subdued.

It felt like a war zone gritting its teeth toward an invisible, but deadly foe; the outcome, uncertain.

Only later when my shudders quieted was I able to dredge up words to wrap around the outing: disconnect/chaos, words also associated with active dying. I’m not there yet, but it’s coming…

We pray, “Mercy!”

Yesterday’s corrective dream jolts me into full awareness: its negativity smells, suggests contamination from Beast, my negative animus.

I’m living in a Senior Citizen complex and scheduled to be put to death following this afternoon’s movie in the theater. In the semi darkness, I find my accustomed seat; next to it is the bucket of water used for such purposes. I’d hoped they’d forgotten, but to my dismay, they haven’t.

I shudder. The faceless they have ordered my death, interestingly enough within the facility’s movie theater where the dumbed-down sit passively, self-absorbed, dull-witted: all aspects of my unconscious. I flop upon my plush seat and await my fate. The bucket of water no longer menaces me—Just part of the routine killings.

The setting of the Senior Citizen complex also unnerves me. I know. Four times I have been in such places for rehab. Their homey allurements still chafe, subtle routines oppress spirit, institutional cooking blocks bowels, staff shortages irk bedpan-sitters, rules and regulations stifle initiative—conform or else is the mandate. In sense it was like being put to death. But not so, today.

And the bucket of water: It morphs into a blue one with a rope handle, such as a child would use to mold sandcastles by the ocean. A shift occurs in my psyche. Despite my terminal illness, life still abounds. Rather than sit listlessly in the movie theater, I empty the bucket, tuck it under my arm, and search for the beach, close by. It’s playtime in the sun.

And the dream’s terror lifts.


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