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“You’re good to go,” said Tyrol seated behind the Plexiglas screen, his expansive chocolate eyes studying me over his mask. “And you’ll need this to get in,” he added handing me the card for the scanner on the nearby counter. I breathed easier, the afternoon sunshine bathing the foyer in light behind me. My admission to the YMCA was free with my Silver Sneakers eligibility. 

“Thanks for your help. You’ll never know,” I said smiling and inserting the card into my wallet.

True, I still have a terminal illness, Interstitial Lung Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis; its progression, unpredictable. Since November 2019, the hospice nurses have counseled, “Just wait and take care of yourself. We’ll be back next week.” And they continue to come, noting signs of my decline in their computers: Evidence of my eighty-five + years unraveling my youthfulness. Then, I got tired of waiting for I knew not what.

In January 2021, I begin short walks in the neighborhood, with my helper’s support and my cane. How I relished the warmth of the sun, telltale signs of greening, and neighbors walking their dogs, having been housebound for so long.

With last week’s return of humidity, though, my spirit sank. In no way could I breathe. I needed an air-conditioned venue to continue my daily walks.

How I was led to the Silver Sneakers and the nearby YMCA is another story. Once inside, though, my crimped airways opened and relaxed. Lightness filled my lungs. My gait felt more steadfast, with less dependence upon my cane and none upon my helper, who followed me around the facility largely empty, save for a handful of seniors.

This will work, if I let it, one day at a time.

I woke at 6:30 A.M. with this dream:

It was mid-afternoon, the sun enlivening scarlet knockout roses in the backyard. Over the weekend, nieces and nephews and their children had gathered for a reunion. A steady stream of stories energized everyone. Especially impressive was their maturity; it being a long while since we last met. Many commented on how well I looked, attired in my yellow T-shirt, shorts, and sandals, my limbs showing signs of summer’s tan. “It’s because of the exercise,” I said.

In this dream I showed no signs of disease, despite my white hair and wrinkles. I felt vibrant, deeply loved, glad to have been included in my extended family for this reunion. No one had difficulty with my introversion, only conversing with them as my energy allowed, unlike past gatherings at the Tan-Tar-A Resort when I had exhausted myself to fit in.

My response about exercise was pivotal: both in toning the body and the psyche. Only a surgeon’s warning in 1970 prodded me to exercise my arthritic body every morning, a practice I still maintain. And only pesky dreams surfacing in the 1980s drove me into Jungian analysis and mandated a gut job for my psyche teeming with specters. Occasionally like this extended family dream, my authentic self surfaces.

On a deeper level, the dream suggests lively connectedness within the kinship archetype, the Jungian designation of patterns that repeat themselves in the unconscious of human beings. Fossil remains of families have been unearthed all over the world: they just are. Given everyone’s flawed character, however, it is the rare family that enjoys such intimacy. This dream story of my relatives, however, seems to be one and fills me with joy.

Could this be a glimpse of eternal life—The kinship archetype evolving in multiple systems of creations in which we participate even now? Just a thought…

“What is real?”—A critical question posed to those seeking authenticity.

This is worked out in The Velveteen Rabbit (1922) by the American-British author Margery Williams. What appears to be the story of a little boy’s relationship with his stuffed rabbit becomes something else. Her toy animals speak.

“What is real?” asks the Velveteen Rabbit, a stocking stuffer ignored by the little boy that Christmas morning in lieu of the more modern wind-up toys in the nursery.

The Skin Horse, the favorite of the boy’s uncle, responds, “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

After the holidays, the grandmother slips the Velveteen Rabbit into the arms of the little boy, asleep in his bed. The next morning, they become inseparable.

Months of cuddling the stuffed rabbit evidence the boy’s growing affection for his pet: bent and missing whiskers, glass eye hanging by a thread, worn patches of velveteen on the haunches, discolored torn ear. Then comes the change.

It comes with the boy’s scarlet fever, and with the single tear from the Velveteen Rabbit’s good eye coursing down its cheek: an arousal of love for his little friend. It also brings on the Nursery Magic Fairy who honors his fresh spirit, kisses him on the nose, then leads him to other rabbits in the forest where he becomes one among them.

This story of transformation appealed to me. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, my body continues wearing down, feelings surface through daily bogs, and grief’s tears water my psyche: all expressions of deepening love for Creator God who has brought me this far in life. I, too, must become real and submit to the stripping/loving in our relationship. To this ongoing process, I bring heartfelt trust.

 

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