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Mildred, 83 years old, loner in dusty bungalow. From her heart spewed nastiness: “I put my daughter-in-law’s picture in the shit house where she belongs!” Each defecation renewed the enmity. Twinkle Toes, her double-footed cat, fondled her flip-flops.

Ann, 84 years old, born in the projects. Years of scrubbing dulled yearnings. The shock in the mirror: “My hair is white!” Intruder-killer infected her lungs.

Sarah, 85 years old, Scottish spinster in ground floor apartment. Hilarious storyteller. Shock of white hair matched the wildness in her eyes. Menial work around city neighborhoods toughened her feet. Ulcerated now, they restrict her movements from bed to commode to chair. Friends still knock on her door.

Juanita, 74 years old, matriarch in son’s bedroom, frozen in recesses of atrophied brain.

Swollen eyes resembled the sorrowing mother. G-tube feedings ballooned her dark frame propped upon pillows. Her extended family watched television.

Marie, 77 years old, chameleon in duplex. Spent, she had lived within the will of her mate. Like a flitting moth, she sought rest, but there was none. Catalepsy crippled her body-soul, listing to the right.

Vivian, 61 years old, victim in handicapped apartment. Mousy hair pulled from temples spooked hooded eyes. Safety-pinned sweaters warmed her stone-heart. Soul illness infected her joints, precipitated seizures. She sat in her chair.

Mildred-Ann-Sarah-Juanita-Marie-Vivian, Home Care Patients I’ve known from the 1990s, limped through end time, the dross of their spent lives purified within God’s emptiness, encircling them with blessing.

I pray the same for myself.

Outside my study window, another lesson unfolds. Dove-gray skies feel pregnant with showers but only release droplets upon single leaves of the viburnum, then sets them aquivering; those surrounding them remain still. This image speaks of the seeming randomness of physical death: One is struck while others are engaged in life, until their turn—or so it seems.

But a plan far greater than our human perception exists, and it’s not of our doing. At times, the appearance of a life shortened by accident or disease compounds the grief of loss, the thwarting of opportunities, and the shortening of longevity. Individuals must re-group and move on with their lives.

Since mid-June, death has stilled the breathing of friends, relatives, and neighbors, losses that crimped my former world, still further. Questions of how it was, remain unanswered.

Instead of succumbing to loneliness’s pinch, better to pray for acceptance with the mantra:

Your will, not mine, be done.

Such prayer works its wisdom into the marrow of my bones and enlarges faith in God’s plan for my transition. For the present, like the leaf without the droplet, I cling to the viburnum bush.

I can’t do this anymore! I admitted to myself, gripping my cane. Like stricken puppies, my legs, refused to move, despite my commanding them to do so. I was beached, immobile, furious, a storm crashing within me.

I had already checked into the YMCA, was sucking a lemon cough drip, and was standing at my usual start position by the entrance. Ahead of me stretched the wide corridor; its recessed lighting reflecting upon the floor had helped me maintain balance the four months I’d been coming here. My helper waited for me to begin my customary walk toward the gym and the exercise room, her shadowing each step lest I fall.

That was three days ago, an experience that left me floundering in self-pity, one of the faces of grief.

It’s all about acceptance: my terminal illness has taken another hit—and there have been many—but not as pronounced as this one: Weakness like I’ve never experienced, shortness of breath that worsens speech production, and muscle loss that rouses issues of disease gnawing away at my body, despite still eating full meals prepared by helpers or brought by friends.

Yes, there’s change. Rather than use my cane, I rely upon my wheeled walker to get about—It’s slower but still works. Happily, I’m still able to blog the ongoing experience of my terminal illness, and if appropriate, I will return to the Y’s NuStep and exercise my legs—not to walk as before, of course, but to keep going, one day at a time with Precious God’s help. Besides, I’ve friends there.

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