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It was February 1, 2022, an overcast day, twenty-eight months since my sign-up to receive hospice care for my diagnosis of Interstitial Lung Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The doorbell rang. It was the hospice nurse practitioner to evaluate my continue participation that occurred every six weeks, given the Medicare protocol for my disease and treatment.

During our last evaluation, my insides had jellied when she said, “Liz, you continue doing so well, perhaps too well. Not much decline since our last being here.” She looked away, then added putting away her stethoscope, “We’ll certify you for another benefit period, then re-evaluate next month. Now, you’re not to worry. We’ll work this out.”

But I did. I still remembered the compassionate response of the ER doctor that Halloween morning, 2019, “You’ve come to the right place, Liz. From here on out, palliative care will serve your medical needs. No more going to hospitals for tests. No more doctors’ offices.”

Only after the nurse left did I learn the difference between hospice and palliative care: Patients not ill enough to qualify for hospice and too ill to benefit from home care services. Perhaps that’s where I belonged.

Yet, hospice did pick me up.

“I said this would work out,” the nurse practitioner said, her eyes smiling behind her mask. “We’re going to hold on to you, after all. That new medication for your breathing warrants our continued surveillance.”

I smiled, another experience of God doing for me what I could not do for myself.

In today’s quiet, I returned to the lyrics of the protest song, Sounds of Silence (1964), its symbols pin-pricking the Alice-in-Wonderland world shapeshifting around its composer Paul Simon. Then, it was the war in Vietnam, with nightly footage of its atrocities numbing many viewers into powerlessness, voicelessness. Something was very wrong in our world. Switching channels helped.-

In my perception, Sounds of Silence still evokes shudders and speaks to our country’s splintering beneath heaps of social, political, and economic disorders. Morals no longer work; in their place, the bastardization of language.

The protest song opens with the imprint of a powerful dream upon the narrator that commands its communication to

People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

And at a later disaster was heard: “Just keep them quiet,” said one of the terrorists on the phone recovered from the debris of United flight 93.

The lyrics continue as if echoing Yahweh’s pleas in the Psalms:  

“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

The warning was given. Yet, with passing years, even more trivia has dulled imaginations, stoked hot pursuit of substances, and atrophied psyches—even evolving into monster-like-minions of

 the neon god they made

The timeliness of conversion of heart has never been so urgent—it can be done.

A chance listening to a mountain dulcimer and a string orchestra performing Connie Elisor’s Blackberry Winter (1997) quickened my imagination: Succulent blackberries and frigid winds erupted into a honied ache, a puckering of the lips, a twinge of sweetness. What was the composer up to?

In my perception, he used the literary device called juxtaposition in which two dissimilar images are purposely placed together, their resonances morphing into a larger reality. The desired surprise gladdens the listeners/readers.

It might be stretching the meaning of juxtaposition to apply it to persons seeded at birth with life and death, but here goes. Only the wise see mortality in a newborn, but it is there. Only the wise sense our living both in kairos time and chronos time. Only the wise intuit the interplay of spirit and matter as we develop through the decades allotted us.

And I’ve had many. Strange beauty characterizes my spiritual path fraught with rheumatoid arthritis, now damaging my lungs: like an irritant developing seed pearls buried within the soft tissue of a mollusk shell. At times, such rubbing terrifies and sickens; at others, it gentles and assuages: but it must be endured for the emergence of the new Elizabeth.

Such juxtaposition awaits me: the outworn will give way to something totally other.

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