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Whups! I look closer and flip on the light, then blink several times into the mirror above the bathroom sink. More wrinkling on the sides of my mouth gives me the appearance of an angry crone; only with a broad grin does she vanish. And puffy pastiness spooks my eyes, a condition that suggests sleepless nights that rarely occur.

Then I remember my age and sink back upon my heels. For years I have been smoothing blush upon my sallow cheeks before social engagements lest others be alarmed by my cadaver-like complexion. All of this makes me vulnerable to cheerful come-ons to try this or that rejuvenation cream.

After marveling at the youthful complexion of Kate Middleton during Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding, I looked up her product, BB Cream Golden Glow, she has been touting, worldwide, much to the dismay of the Royals. The compound of water, cyclopentasiloxane, octyldodecanol, dimethicone, and glycerin promises a healthy glow effect with just the right hint of illumination, offers immediate and long-term hydrating benefits, protects skin from premature aging and environmental stresses, and promotes skin regeneration. Just the product for me, I mused!

However, I scrolled down further and learned that a twenty-ounce-jar of BB Cream Golden Glow costs $393.

Yet, my heart of hearts knows the utter foolishness of all of this. Only earnest obedience to the consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) within our shadowy depths brings about this glow. In this daily dying, we find ultimate life. It’s always been that way.

 

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“I don’t know how to die,” admitted a cancer patient to her hospice nurse after last week’s admission to this nursing home. “I’ve never done this before.”

Her red-knit stocking cap bobs as more heart-words rivet our attention, seated around a table in the conference room filled with coffee cups and pastries. It is Sunday afternoon, the clouds moist with rain, the soaked gardens resembling stricken wildebeests.

Her voice strong, her back straight in the wheelchair, the elastic ties on her oxygen mask indenting her doughy cheeks, she describes recent changes: leaving her apartment and neighbors, leaving her oncologist’s palliative care, leaving her sons to their illusion that she will get better, leaving others to dispose of her personal effects, waiting long spells for others to wheel her around; even adjusting to her roommate’s stuff overflowing into her curtained cubicle—all of this with equanimity. “But the food is good,” she adds, her eyes smiling.

What is striking during our time together, however, is the number of employees who pass in the corridor and wave to our friend. For years, during trying hospitalizations and treatments, she had cultivated this cheerfulness, especially when it eluded her, and it continues to serve her well.

A woman of deep spirit, she is fearless in exploring the perimeters of her circumscribed world in the days still allotted to her. We will continue to follow her.

Her name is Miki.

 

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Splat! Upon my hood, winds shake raindrops from overarching maples. I stop in my tracks, the sleeves of my slicker glistening with wetness like tears filming the eyes of a new mother.

I am alone.

Ahead of me mounts the asphalt trail, stippled with leaves: greens, coppers, browns, and mustards, with snatches of scarlets—denuded by fall’s encroachment. There’s no stopping her. A solitary raven caws. I look up. Clouds hover over this wetness like a seasoned gardener mulching flowerbeds. A droplet disengages a shrunken leaf from its mooring and spins it to the forest floor littered with twigs and dried stems. Musk pulsates from every pore of this wetland.

Such seasonal stripping reminds me of grace, subtly detaching us from the outworn, that which no longer sustains our spiritual growth. We dare not ignore this imperative.

 

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