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“I hear from Alice that you’re doing quite well—still active with exercises and blogging,” said Kacie, the nurse practitioner with hospice, as she unzipped her bag and settled around my dining room table. Ties secured the blue mask around her brunette bun, setting off her kind eyes, its warmth also reflected in her speech. “Came by to evaluate your eligibility for another benefit period. A requirement from Medicare—Like we did the last time.” Then, she had worn a navy jacket. Not so, this humid morning.

“Glad to see you again,” I said, adjusting my oxygen and turning on the concentrator next to me. “I only wear this when speaking for awhile. Helps me formulate my words and express them without getting too tired.” My lungs opened to their full capacity as I sat straight in my armchair, my hands in my lap.

“And still on the oxygen at night?” she asked, flipping open the yellow pad on the table before her. “At 2+ liters?”

I nodded, then added, “Been that way for several months. It seems to help.”

New to this evaluation was increasing shortness of breath, weakness, longer time to complete deep breathing exercises, my helper cooking meals and cleaning up, and too stressed to go outdoors. However, the measurement of my upper arm remained the same as last time.

Like other health care workers that I’d asked, Kacie had no generalized pattern of the deaths of patients with my diagnosis. Always the same response: ‘They’re all different—Some go quickly, others, slowly.”

Again, I’m reminded to stop trying to figure this out, a covert way of controlling the uncontrollable that floods my psyche with unmanageability: CPA’s Step One. It never works.




A flash of red trembles the branch outside my study window. It is the cardinal, its orange-red beak clamped with greens intended for its mate, brooding over their nest that is secluded by shadowy leaves from an upper branch. Another shimmering of red lands the cardinal upon the side of the nest, inserting food into the opened beak of its mate, then flaps off, but not for long.

Again, the cardinal alights upon the nest, this time with a black seed in its beak. For five days, such feedings have heartened me, only to become more numerous after their chicks are born. For now, it’s about guarding their eggs from predators and waiting. Whispering breezes gentle this event.

I’m in good company as I also wait in my comfy home, its décor painstakingly assembled like the cardinals’ nest layered with twigs, leaves, grasses, and feathers. I, too, am in vital need of feeding lest I grow weary of my transition and lose heart. My hungers are deep. This morning, Eunice, the hospice chaplain, stopped by and listened, while my helper Tracy prepared a tasty lunch of baked bass and vegetables.

Paradoxically, as I am fed, a corresponding emptiness yawns in my psyche, stretching my purview into the unknown, fraught with the unimaginable. Like plucked violin strings, trust marshals my resolve toward deeper surrender of the inevitable. With this process comes loneliness: alone I was birthed into this existence and alone I will leave.

Like fledglings, I’m all mouth…


It happened so subtly—“I’m going home! I’m going home!”—so prompted my spirit emerging from psychic depths, cuing me toward the next diminishment. Never could I have produced such self-talk; its simplicity says it all, so quiet, so low key.

True, for some time increasing weakness, exhaustion, shortness of breath, and muscle loss has further depleted my energy, not without my notice and some angst. Such symptoms correspond to my terminal disease, interstitial lung disease with rheumatoid arthritis. Still the daily dose of Dexamethasone has kept me somewhat functional.

But I’m in a different space, one filled with lightness, color, hope, evidence of more release from the bondage of this existence. No matter that my symptoms will only cease with the death in my body—My attitude, for today, for which I offer thanks to God. Not that there won’t be upheavals before my final breath. Usually there are, so I’m told.

Still, “I’m going home!” That’s all that matters.


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