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Two startling dreams roused me during the pre-dawn hours:

My brother Mark asked my help in removing thousands of silver needles and straight pins from a magnificent display of unique fabrics that commanded rave reviews, worldwide. The venue for this artwork was at the St. Louis Cathedral.

Sleep returned immediately, only to have the following dream surface the next hour:

Many crowd a playing field on a sunny afternoon. Suddenly, the loud speaker system clicks on, and a warning voice announces: “If by 3 P.M., tomorrow, letters, T, O, M and Ed Buegge have not stopped drinking, they will die.” At least the announcer did not disclose the anonymity of my brother, I muse to myself.

Remembering that dream stories are replete with symbols and hidden in the unconscious, I had much to work with, their terror firing me for several hours afterwards.

To deal with these lessons, I prayed, with the psalmist: “Unless the Lord build the house, in vain do the laborers build it.” In my perception, dream work constitutes co-creating with God. He is the Master Builder.

The symbol of thousands of silver needles and straight pins in the first dream has multiple associations: their sharpness and invisibility, their impermanence in holding things together, their potential to inflict pain. Others’ perception of my well-defined character is fleeting, at best: a cover for multiple disorders still lodged in the darkness of my psyche. My brother Mark, already in the next life, invites me to explore this stinking morass with God, so as to remove it, before my own transition.

In the second dream, the announcer’s warning caught me unawares, so lulled I was by the afternoon sun and camaraderie of the participants on the playing field. Only after he clicked off the microphone did the full import of his words strike me with dread: alcoholism, our family disease, and death.

For generations, I’ve Twelve-Stepped my alcoholism and grasped its lethal nature, also evidenced at funerals and memorials. But the felt presence of death in my psyche is a first.

For years, studies of death have attracted me: its multiple expressions found in the work of psychologists and theologians, even authors and musicians. In blogging this subject, I’ve grown. But much of this buzzing about has not touched the core of my death, until this morning’s dream.

I’m grateful to having been so nudged, but more will be revealed. I’ve only to surrender and participate. This is working out…

It was 1957. Near midnight, shivery blasts rattled the convent’s double casement windows and dumped mounds of snow upon blue spruces and towering oaks. Swirling, cracking, snapping sounds rubbed against the erstwhile silence and quickened the steps of hundreds of black-laced low-heeled shoes along the long hardwood floors, polished for the occasion: New Year’s Eve. The swish of long black choir cloaks fastened at the chin heightened the drama.

Further ahead, I made out the great doors of the Gothic chapel opening out to the older nuns who bowed before the Superior, toed the wooden kneelers of their choir stalls, knelt down, and opened their libers. As the procession inched toward the chapel, steam sizzled from occasional radiators affording oases of warmth.

Four months into my postulancy in the noviceship, I watched, bug-eyed, so as not to make a mistake. Finally, I opened my liber with the others and waited for the pitch pipe’s tone from the Mistress of the Choir. After I adjusted my wool skirt on the kneeler, I gazed at the sanctuary, where thick beeswax candles shadowed the altar and other furnishings.

Then a short beep signaled everyone to grab their opened libers and stand facing each other as the Miserere was intoned, a psalm pleading God’s forgiveness for sins committed in the year, 1957. Then, followed another ancient Latin hymn, the Te Deum, heartfelt thanksgiving for its graces.

Just as the tower bell gonged midnight, the Jesuit celebrant began Mass, in union with the praying church all over the world. No matter the blight of racial integration in our country, no matter Sukarno’s expulsion of the Dutch from Indonesia, no matter the world’s excesses—deep Peace’s embrace revealed another realm and we were in it.

I’ve never forgotten that night.

As death … is the true goal of our existence, I have formed a close relationship with the best and truest friend of mankind: Death’s image is no longer terrifying but soothing and consoling. So wrote Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to his father in 1788 when exhausted with chronic illness and tormented by fears of having been poisoned.

In my perception, Mozart endured a conflicted life: the compulsion to explore and amplify the then known genres of classical music and create his own—he composed six hundred pieces, still enjoyed today—with the limits of his slight body, dead at thirty-five.

As others had composed Requiems, dating from the beginnings of the Christian Mass, and as Mozart awoke to his mortality, his passion to compose his own Requiem consumed him. But the work only began in 1791, the year of his death. Completed were the Introit, Kyrie, and the first eight bars of Lacrimosa, tears that shagged my own, as found within the sequence, Dies irai, all in the key of D minor, symbolic of music of the afterlife.

Assembling Mozart’s drafts of the other six parts awaited another’s hand, composer Franz Xavier Sussmayr.

For those who grieve—and they’re everywhere—there is balm in Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, K. 626 (1791). His psyche experienced the full majesty of God’s mercy and gave expression, symphonically and chorally, to this phenomenon. We’ve only to listen with humble hearts and rejoice and be renewed. There is another way to view life’s hardships.

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