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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.

 

 

“It’s critical to live while dying than to die while living,” so urges Kathleen Dowling Singh, author of what’s become my handbook, The Grace in Dying – How We Are Transformed Spiritually as We Die. Such has become the leitmotif of my hospice experience that began last November.

Ninety days have passed since I signed those papers, de-cluttered my house of all that I’m not using, and finalized my affairs with my lawyer, broker, funeral director, and accountant—even alerted significant others of my decision.

Weeks passed with visits of the hospice team, experienced in end-of-life issues and supportive of my efforts to wrap words around my terminal illness: Interstitial Lung Disease. Initially, it felt like I was talking about someone else, even felt uneasy when they responded. To remedy this disorder, I began blogging my daily experience, and it’s been working. I also did not miss my supplements or my accustomed activities outside my home. The “little blue pill” became an even smaller white one, the dosage reduced from four milligrams to one. But my body is old and subtle changes are occurring.

I liken my decline to the pace of the snail: loss of muscle mass, need for nebulizer treatments for breathing, slower gait, and even some weakness and brain fog. Yet I continue all my ADLs and appreciate my helpers’ support, one day at a time. Conscious contact with Precious God and my CPA sponsor makes this work. Huge is my gratitude when I retire for the day to await dreams.

And Last week Medicare authorized a second ninety-day benefit period for my hospice care. I’ll keep blogging.

 

 

I can’t believe what just happened. No matter that I was new at my job with the Visiting Nurse Association, that I was swamped handling our own referrals and had no time for supervising. She poo-pooed my objections, said that I had been recommended by the social worker at Cardinal Glennon’s for her practicum placement and no other would do. Besides, she was late for her class at Washington University and had to leave. Laughing, she grabbed her stuff and said, “See you Monday. This’ll work out—You’ll see!”

And it did, but not as you would think. She had no need for supervision: I needed it from her. Thus began our dinner meetings in the Delmar Loop, August 1979.

A single mom, she was raising five children, working nights at Glennon’s ER and finishing her master’s degree in Social work, besides having one in nursing. She inspired me to minimize my arthritic pain and engage in life around me. It worked, even to discarding my social work practice and becoming a certified chaplain, a better fit with my emerging gifts.

Our bonding deepened with annual retreats at Gloucester, where we continued our dinner meetings over fresh seafood and more laughter. There, she found her God in tending seagulls, their wings broken by the casts of anglers on the breakfront by Gloucester harbor—My wings have long since been whole.

Long seasoned with life’s fullness, she continues touching many.

Her name is Pat.

 

 

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