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Like a mechanical toy with moveable parts, he lurched across the gym floor at the Y, his right hand splaying his cane before him, his mouth, a perfect round O. He was young—perhaps in his twenties, his stunted body wearing a black-and-white striped T-shirt and black pants. Still focused upon the next step, he headed toward the stairs and the indoor track for walking. Then, he was gone, unaware of my having waved to him.

A few minutes later, he emerged, running, the left hand loosely gripping the rail, and the right, his cane. In a short while, he completed the circular track, then stopped to catch his breath as two joggers passed him. A few moments later, he resumed walking, his dark hair swiping his full forehead as he studied each step with his cane. Although chronically off balance—perhaps the result of cerebral palsy—he was very much his own person, seemingly adjusted to living in a body that jerked, but one that was trim. He cared, or someone else cared, deeply.

Then, he was gone again, but his impression sank within my psyche—another life teacher, with indomitable spirit.

Such displays of quiet spirit evidence God’s healing, at work everywhere—even in life’s reversals—if we have courage to participate.

“Time unused and only endured still vanishes, as if time itself is starving, and each day is swallowed whole, leaving no crumbs, no memory, no trace at all”—So wrote Elisabeth Tova Bailey, author of the memoir, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (2010).

Once the author realized the debilitating implications of her chronic illness, with brief remissions tanking into relapses with hospitalizations and painful therapies, she took stock: she still had a need to be useful; she still had her keen mind, and with it, engaged in snail research, even publishing the results of her findings. From her fruitful imagination, she also composed short stories for academic journals.

Bailey’s productivity, under such handicaps, empowers me to do likewise, given the increasing symptoms of my terminal illness since its November 2019 diagnosis. At the time, I remembered feeling overwhelmed, then deciding to enlarge my hospice experience through daily blogs on heartwhisperings.com. Well-practiced in writing,

I would have company. I began, one word at a time, the continuing gift of my Inner Writer. Any subject was grist for the mill, given the altered perspective on my life, and slowly I could type ADL with RA without a miss-strike.

Change of seasons, prayers, holidays, Covid-19 and so much more have left traces of new learning upon my blog, despite scratching unlikely surfaces for material.

Never could I have imagined the tinge of yellow shimmering the forsythia shrub next to my front porch, but it is happening, and will probably produce another blog. LIFE is unstoppable until it stops. In the meantime, like Elisabeth Tova Bailey, I’ll continue dropping crumbs, as given to me to share.

“I began to look more closely, not at things but at a world closer to myself, looking from an inner place to one further within, instead of clinging to the movement of sight toward the world outside.” So wrote Jacques Lusseyran, accidently blinded when eight years of age, in his memoir And There Was Light (1963).

Newly sightless, he directed close attention toward the pressure of his surroundings—people, places, things—enveloping his person. Ever so slowly, he felt their impress, even their color that quickened his sensitive mind and allowed the world to come to him for recognition.

Despite bouts of exhaustion at the outset, his new way of seeing served him well—especially later as a teenager when he excelled in his Braille studies and friendships, headed up a youth resistance group in Nazi-occupied Paris, and survived Buchenwald’s hell.

Disciplined attention underscored these engagements, an attention that grounded him in the present moment. With his God, he watched on-going creation, his love and joy deepening with each breath.

Jacques Lusseyran’s practice of attention, from deep inwardness, inspires me to do similarly, despite sporadic efforts in the past. True, I’ve come a long way since signing on to hospice for my terminal illness, but my demise does not seem imminent. There’s still more time to practice, to participate in the wrapping up of a long life, unlike that of Jacques Lusseyran, killed in an auto accident, when forty-seven.

Yet, I’m grateful for Lusseyran’s practice, now informing my discipline of Twelve Step living, honing my spirit for what is to come.

 

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