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It was a brilliant Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, and, sleepy-eyed, I met my friend at the airport for our flight to Gloucester, Massachusetts, for our annual retreat—Everything as usual, or so I thought.

Only airborne a short while, the intercom clicked on. “This is your Captain speaking—Air Traffic Control is delaying our arrival at Boston. Some difficulties, they’re having. We’ll keep you posted.” I buckled my seat-belt, intuiting that something was very wrong. My friend didn’t agree and our conversation about terrorism continued until interrupted.

It was the Captain again. “There’s been another change. Air Traffic Control directs us to land at the nearest airport. Since we’re closest to Indianapolis, that’s where will land. They’re expecting us, as well as other planes ordered to clear the skies.” Only while deplaning did the Captain inform us of the terrorist bombings in Manhattan.

Slowly, the ghoulish pieces of the nightmare begin to coalesce while listening to the car rental’s radio on the way to Gloucester: a series of suicide planes had crashed into and leveled the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center; another crashed into the side of the Pentagon; and still another, intended for the U. S. Capitol or The White House, crashed-landed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, thanks to Todd Beamer and other passengers who almost subdued their four hijackers.

Panic, fire, dense smoke, mangled and burnt bodies, shocking injuries, lingering deaths, families decimated, destruction of symbolic edifices, disruption of the economy and much more scarred America’s psyche—an emotional scarring it still bears, despite the media’s sanitized coverage, twenty years later.

Only later did Osama bin Laden, founder of the pan-Islamic militant organization, al-Qaeda, take responsibility for this atrocity, his choice of the date to avenge the September 11, 1683 Christian victory over the Turks at the battle of Vienna.

Prayer and Memorials help, but the scar of 9/11 remains: No one has forgiven anyone—the war continues.

For nearly two years, I have been blogging the experience of my terminal illness, Interstitial Lung Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis, its symptoms creeping along like an inchworm in high grass, on holiday, with no incentive to hurry. Weeks have morphed into months; months, into years. Slowly, I learned that the disease would have its way with me. I could only witness its symptoms as they occurred.

This being the case, I resorted to head-writing my blogs despite practicing acceptance and surrender and following my daily self-care routine. But my unconscious need to control the uncontrollable, the death of my body, held full sway. My heart was elsewhere.

But last night’s prayer or dream seems to have changed things. My whole body warmed as I heard myself say from the heart, “To You, I return my body. I’m so grateful.” My whole being stirred. I felt free in a new way, and still do—at least today. Gone is the residual anger that had clung to my psyche like sticky spider webs. In no way could I remove them. Another has.

This new shift in attitude is critical for the remainder of my life. Whatever new symptoms there will be, and they’ll probably be many, my choice for fuller Life has been made. In the meantime, I have the next twenty-four hours to look after, with my heart seeking guidance.

My gratitude knows no bounds.

“Here, I brought this for you to wear. It’s cozy and warm—One of our volunteers made it for our patients. They’re always doing such nice things for us,” said Christina, the CNA assigned to me for the night. Then, she handed me a white flannel gown with prints of small red cardinals perched upon bare branches.

Because last Friday night’s storm had knocked out the electrical power in my home, its restoration being uncertain, I obtained a respite bed at Evelyn’s House, the BJC freestanding hospice facility where I availed myself of their oxygen and nebulizer treatments for my lungs. I hoped to make my transition from this facility and welcomed the experience of its services. I was not disappointed.

Seasoned and skilled staff, still masked for protection from Covid, welcomed me and promptly came to my assistance when needed. Their responses to my questions orientate me to the facility and my private guest room with its tasteful framed prints affording colors of the outdoors. A large window and a glass-paneled door looked out upon the private patio with an iron table and chairs, a bird-feeder, a lush meadow with four-year old-trees, the age of this facility. Two fauns spent much of Saturday afternoon with me.

Covid restrictions kept me in my room where I continued my exercises, read 1776, the historical novel by David McCullough, and prayed for those around me. Not a sound from anywhere did I hear, those twenty-four hours I was there.

And during the night, the cardinal-print nightgown contoured my body with cushiony warmth. I’m grateful for my stay at Evelyn’s House, there being only sixteen guest rooms for the use of the entire BJC system. 

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