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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.

Exam rooms, an image, found in Stories of Hope – Living in Serenity with Chronic Pain and Illness (2012), jarred awareness of my bleak past. Decades of autoimmune disease had led me to frequent them, whether in hospitals, clinics or medical buildings. As I relocated from city to city, I sought out the best internists, rheumatologists, and surgeons, their names and institutions stitched above the pockets of their starched medical coats.

Within the narrow confines of exam rooms, I waited partially disrobed, my list of questions curling in perspiring hands. To distract myself, I studied lurid charts of diseases on the walls, peeked through blind-covered windows to the streets below, thumbed through dog-eared trade magazines, listened for footfalls in the corridor. I also prayed. And then the door would click open, my doctor, followed by fellows and medical students filling the space between us.

The routine was much the same: the narration of raw symptoms and ineffective drugs prescribed from the previous visit, the doctors’ touch upon inflamed joints, orders for x-rays and lab work ups, and then, the plan: surgery or return in one month. Little helped. I still hobbled, over-smiling the grimacing.

Now that I’m under the care of the hospice medical director, there are no more exam rooms—Only my dining room with fresh tulips, frequented by sensitive and caring nurses and the chaplain. It is from this room that I’m preparing for my transition, one day at a time. Deep is my joy and gratitude.

Watery breathing lapped the silence as I sat in my prayer-chair, the afternoon sun shifting slow-moving angles onto the hardwood floor—A cough, then a second one, evidenced my need for a nebulizer treatment. Such interruptions stamped its impress upon my old body’s malfunctioning like a signet ring upon molten wax, permanent, incapable of being removed.

Yesterday’s visit with my hospice nurse confirmed my hunch that increasing weakness signaled the worsening of my terminal illness, inching along in its progression. That confirmation evoked a major shift in my psyche, nudging me a tad deeper within the prickles of grief. For months, sadness has swamped me like a surfer’s breaking wave, almost drowning me until its release. Oceanic tears, I’ve yet to experience but their presence is mounting.

However, in-breaking moments of acceptance lift the pall of gloom and free me to rejoice in what’s coming—and that for all eternity.

Such fresh Love awaits all of us, even now, in prayer…

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