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“Click!” sounded the front door as it was pushed open, the gutter still dripping from the early morning squall. She shook her umbrella and stepped inside.

It was her smooth chocolate hands—hands unflinchingly willing to serve—that first quickened my heart to her inner riches, warmed by a bright smile.

I first experienced her caring hands, three years ago, while convalescing from multiple fractures. She supported my daily efforts toward independence and knew when to step back as I regained more responsibility over my affairs. In subsequent years, we remained friends as more of her story emerged.

Widowed with three little ones, grandmother, decades of caring for patients in hospitals and skilled nursing homes: all have gentled her hands, with when to touch and when to let go. In private homes, no housework was too much: cleaning, washing, scrubbing, cooking, mopping. No errands slighted. Transportation to doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and rehab also supported her patients. Informing the work of her hands has been the lifelong study of the bible with its ancillary materials.

However, due to my terminal illness with its weakness and shortness of breath, she has returned to my home: This time, to watch and support my gradual decline as I move toward my transition. She has also lined up additional caregivers when my needs increase. Handy with the hose, she presently keeps my grass watered and the marigolds pruned.

I remain in good hands and I’m grateful. She has become the black sister I never had.

Her name is Tracy McNeil. (618-975-1001)

At 3:45 A.M. I awoke with this curious dream, with its lesson for today:

During my absence from home, Martha had hung a paint-by-numbers scene of a wooded area, its colors garish and bleeding, over a mural in my living room. I’m shocked, then angered even more when I discover the gaping hole she’d made for the nail, the plaster on the floor.

 During my absence from home suggests gaps in my attention span, my not being fully present to the inner workings of my thoughts, motives, and choices in my psyche— Relapsing into denial, rationalization, and idealization, or even worse, dissociation from my body. With increasing fatigue, all the more important for me to take more timeouts for rest. Happily, my REM sleep deepens the quality of my sleep and provides multiple dreams that cue me through this process of diminishing health.

Martha, the extroverted shadow of my sister, suggests the need to balance out my limited energies, especially saying “No.” to others when too exhausted to speak; not to force myself, even when wearing oxygen. The hospice nurse has told me that ILD will eventually harden my lungs, cutting off speech altogether, a process already underway, albeit slowly.

hung a paint-by-numbers scene of a wooded area suggests unwanted people, places, things no longer conducive to this last phase of my individuation. That Martha caught me unawares mandates my willingness to become more vigilant, more discerning.

I’m shocked, then angered speaks of feelings that can easily plunge me into self-pity, even more poison for my psyche, which whacks conscious contact with HP into smithereens—An intolerable situation.

So this morning’s dream calls for more discipline to remain fully conscious with the help of CPA’s Twelve Steps and the spiritual fellowship. To this, I remain committed, despite slips.

 

 

“Hi Liz! So glad we’re meeting this morning. Do come in.” So welcomed Ellen Sheire standing in her doorway, her brown eyes shimmering with light, her amber bangles and earrings complementing her shirtwaist dress. It was March 1988, a humid morning that would launch decades of dream analysis with my new helper, a Jungian-trained analyst. I had nowhere else to go, racked, as I was, by terrifying dreams imaging physical and psychic disorders.

Denial screened the enormity of this undertaking: the complete gut job of my psyche, given its mishmash of others’ values ill-suited to my individuation. With no sense of who I was, with no voice, I was slowly dying.

What was obvious to Ellen those first weeks of dream analysis was my disease of alcoholism. However, denial thwarted entering12-Step recovery and the brownstone across the street until 1991. There, I learned about letting go and letting God, a process that continues into the present.

Interesting that Ellen never sought to fix me, rather midwifed me toward the God-given riches buried within my unconscious. Her tactics were simple: recommended Jungian authors who amplified the elucidation of my dreams each week; travel with Jungian study groups to Sacred sites of the Feminine in western Europe; active imagination with spirit guide Michael for, ten years; memoir writing, once retired; and monthly meetings of the local C. J. Jung Society. Thirty-three loose-leaf binders evidenced the fruitfulness of our relationship.

A woman of selfless joy, Ellen Sheire drew me to her study those Friday mornings from which I emerged with renewed hope, even laughter, to continue this arduous work. My gratitude is boundless.

From this vantage point, I’m deeply content to return this gift of life, with her finger prints, to Creator-God, whenever, however…

 

 

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