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At last, I’m in my real home, I prayed, adjusting the weight of my knees upon the wooden kneeler in the 1878 Gothic Revival chapel of the community of nuns I’d chosen to enter. From the choir loft wafted ethereal strains that deepened my consolation and assured me of having made the right decision.

But it had not always been that way. Only the nuns’ scholarly teaching, their contemplative attitude, their joy in living spoke of the depths of their vowed commitment, its observance hidden behind cloister doors. Only after entering religious formation in the noviceship would I know how they lived. Clues from the trousseau list also repulsed me: for instance, using Birdseye towels instead of Kotex, man-sized handkerchiefs, galoshes, etc.

With the entrance day, September 7, 1957, fast approaching, terror of the unknown assailed me; it was only assuaged by binging, my empty stomach empowering me with a sense of control, until the next emptying. But all the arrangements had been made, even the pasteboard steamer trunk shipped to Albany, New York, my destination. I had to go rather than disappoint many. So, tearfully, I went. The initial wrench numbed me.

Since then, there have been other unknowns, but not the existential terror of that one. Another unknown, the death of my body, looms ahead, perceived, now, as the great adventure to another “home.” Most everyone that I have known are already there.

I wait and pray, in gratitude.

This dream gentled me into awareness as I woke:

 It is a humid afternoon, overcast. I am alone. Those I came with have remained in our cabin. Slowly, I make my way down to the bank of the river and feel the mud ooze between my toes. I stop and look around. Tangled woods pattern the water with curves that stretch far ahead. I feel the water lap against my knees as I pick my way forward. Time passes. Suddenly, fear grips me. I don’t know if I can find my way back to the cabin. I’m lost.

 Powerful symbols carry the dream story. Afternoon suggests mid-time, still allotted to me as opposed to night’s end-time. Humidity sucks me within lethargy, befuddles clear thinking, and messes with decisions. Robot-like, I leave my companions within the safety of the cabin and move toward the meandering river: Its unconscious realm demands my engagement. Tangled vegetation on its banks suggests dark places replete with new learning for me to internalize. Mud speaks of primordial creation as depicted in the book of Genesis; it restores my knees. The cabin represents the secure and safe enclosure where all needs are met.

In the dream, I remember regretting not having worn protective footwear lest I injure myself. That does not happen. Instead, I squish along until conscious of my muddy feet splintering my lethargy and setting me a-quaking. Nothing looks familiar. I’m lost.

True, I have grown in acceptance of the mortality inherent within my humanness, but only a modicum. To convince me of this, my Dreamer lays bare my psyche’s curiosity and fear: Curiosity with the unfolding of my terminal illness; fear, with its consummation. Because I still hanker after the cabin, there’s more work to be done.



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