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I still remember being transfixed by rows of chrysalis, some dormant, some thrashing about, within the glass case of the conservatory at The Sophie M. Sachs Butterfly House in St. Louis County, Missouri. Only vaguely did I recall the egg and the caterpillar phases involved in the formation of the chrysalis. But only now have I learned what transpires within the chrysalis before its metamorphosis.

A violent scenario unfolds. For the first three or four days, rich fluids fill the the chrysalis causing it to destroy most of the caterpillar cells; its organs take new forms for the butterfly’s use. Some leftover parts, like the caterpillar jaws, form the butterfly’s sucking mouthparts; its legs, the butterfly’s. Partially formed wings continue developing beneath the chrysalis’s skin. Toward the end of two weeks, its transparency reveals the butterfly’s color and patterns. When ready, the butterfly breaks through the protective chrysalis, pumps blood into its newly formed wings, then flies away.

 

As I compose this blog, I breathe deeply into my own chrysalis, the symbolic container for my terminal illness, lLD with rheumatoid arthritis. For over four months, hospice has supported its sick phase, and the learning has been profound. Similar to the unhappy caterpillar in the chrysalis, my dismemberment continues: old ideas, ill suited for my individuation, are ripped from the bedrock of my psych. Dreams continue tweaking my distorted perceptions. New physical symptoms surface with corresponding natural remedies that offer relief. Yet, the downward slope continues and I have no control over the disease process.

 

Another night of psychic distress roused me. No dream snippets clued my sense of what was amiss, especially since yesterday’s puttering around had gone so well—even had my teeth cleaned. I was clearly in Step I: “We admitted we were powerless over terminal illness—that our lives had become unmanageable.” Yet, I preferred my comforter’s warmth to my chilled study and meditation with Recipe for Recovery. Hours limped by. Dawn light finally sulked like spent embers.

Bleary-eyed, I sat in my prayer chair, turned to the Ingredients of Step I, and mulled over “Accepting the Unacceptable.” Often, I had begun my day with this practice, one that countered the denial of my mortality and opened me to bliss on other side of my diminishment, however it played out. But this morning was different—my insides were raw as if scraped clean by a scalpel.

I groused, mindful of conscious efforts to live fully in the present moment, the locus of grace, as I thought I had done the day before. How was I to move toward acceptance of my terminal illness as practiced in CPA? What was I to learn? More daylight filtered through the blinds. I waited, listened to my breathing: inhaling, exhaling. I began to relax, wiggle my toes.

Then it happened—I fell prostrate before the God of my understanding, the source of last night’s distress. Anther lesson in humility was underway and I knew it. Beneath my façade of contentment still lurked control, albeit limited, of my homebound world. Without the support of oxygen and Dexamethasone, my symptoms would level me.

 

 

 

Again, I accepted my ultimate lack of control over my terminal illness, until the next rupture and lesson. I’m not humble.

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