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“Who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15

Such a question I pose to myself after reflecting upon Jesus’s humble ride upon the colt of an ass into Jerusalem that hot Passover morning—A stunning question that lays open my heart. It seems like he’s always been with me.

True, meditation, scripture studies, retreats, recovery meetings, and conversation with others have fanned my response for decades, but it’s the experience of Jesus of Nazareth that lasts: one that speaks wordless love and mercy, not without scrambling my words. He just is.

When absent, loneliness sets in like bats flitting through vaulted caves. Yet, with Jesus’s return, longing burns anew.

It wasn’t always like this, often sidetracked by instinctual demands for easier and softer ways of doing life, despite its inherent hardships. Such waywardness produced even more misery that worsened my chronic illness and joint pain. Recognizing gospel teachings within the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has made all the difference, grounding me, afresh, within Jesus for another twenty-four hours.

And living with terminal illness has deepened this focus. With months slipping into years, it can’t be much longer. Then we shall see face to face. I Cor. 13:12.

At 7:35 A.M., I woke with this dream:

I’m attending a luncheon at a trendy tearoom filled with women engaged in animated conversations. No one comments upon the opaque gray-like mist that screens us from seeing each other; they only affirm the delicious soup placed in front of us. I feel strange.

What stands out immediately in the dream is the opaque gray-like mist that prevents all vision; it also isolates me from my surroundings and myself—a condition likened to denial masking my psyche from the inevitable diminishments of living with symptoms of terminal illness. Increasing shortness of breath upon exertion crimp conversations with others, require more help from my helpers, and more time-outs for rest and dream catching.  

The opaque gray-like mist also suggests the aloneness I must continue experiencing until my transition. I still relate to others in the world around me, but it’s not the same. Each day has its critical tasks as I forage into the unknown. I know when the insights come.

The dream also forewarns me to avoid the trendy tearoom that I so easily create in my imagination when zip locked into yahoo—a huge displacement of critical energy.

Above all, the imperative is to remain focused upon the new learning, however painful. Change still turns things around, and the struggle is well worth it.

I still remember that afternoon in the NICU as I watched the mother smiling through swollen-starved eyes and holding her brain-damaged daughter in her arms. Next to her stood her grandmother, my dear friend. Not much was said—just a loving presence, fresh tears feeding the grief and more hugs. That was in 2002.

When stable, the newborn would return home. Never was there mention of an institution to provide the 24/7 support she would require for the rest of her life: hands-on care and tube feedings that afforded nutrition and the medical management of her chronic seizures and cerebral palsy.

Years passed. Daily, she was fed, washed, dressed, and placed in her special chair in front of videos that seemed to spark something in her. Birthdays and holidays celebrated her smiling psyche, always in blessing toward others. Daily, she was kissed and blessed with holy water. Illnesses were infrequent.

However in 2018, a significant respiratory infection almost ended her life, save for the twenty-four hour intervention by her mother and grandmother in their home. In no time, she was back to her normal and remained so until the beginning of this month.

Again, she became gravely ill: more high fevers, intermittent seizures, and respiratory symptoms that required constant suctioning for over a week. Rather than send her to the hospital for treatment, they chose to work with her at home, as before. Given the impeccable care she has always received, no one could surmise the cause of these disorders.

Yet, two days ago, her old normalcy began to reappear. Spirits lifted, for a time. Only last evening’s brightness around her blue eyes evidenced something else was going on—something near the ceiling. Kissed and blessed with holy water as always, the grandmother retired for the night—but found her remains this morning.

Ellie, another angel, has returned to Precious God from whence she came. On April twenty-third, she would have been twenty-one years old. May we all learn from Ellie and her caregivers.

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