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Outside my study windows, September evokes subtle leaf changes in my shrubs: the pickle-green lilacs, the laurel-green forsythia, the moss-green of the London plane tree, and the hunter-green of the snowflake verbena. All have lost their glossy coats, Spring’s gift, and will eventually cast them within stripping winds and pelting snow crystals. Yet, occasional root drenching-rains prolong this process like sparrows in slow motion.

I feel like one of these leaves: the loss of my greening-zest and its intrusion into my identity. But change, I must continue until properly stripped. This takes daily willingness, only wrought through prayer. Within each twenty-four hours, I draw courage from the shrubs, in their de-coloring and de-leafing, outside my windows.

Yet, lime-green berries flourish on my Christmas jewel holly, December’s chill reddening them through the winter months.

I jolted awake around 3:30 A.M. with this dream:

Word had gotten around that I was actually dying. My doorbell rang. My phone rang. Others knocked on the opened front door and came in and made their way to my bedroom, already filled with others paying their last respects. I’m sitting up in my full bed, unsupported, wearing a T-shirt, my forearms resting on the covers. Shortness of breath prevents me from speaking clearly. My words are muddled.

This startling dream gave me considerable pause: the ravages of death in my body, witnessed by others. Other dreams have suggested end-of-life issues, each with its own lesson, but none this specific.

My first response to this morning’s dream was repulsion toward the crowds filling my bungalow and their raucous noise. Seated atop my full bed, however, you would never have known: I was all smiles and gratitude toward my well-wishers, despite shortness of breath and muddled words.

I’ve always envisioned my serene passing like a beam of sunlight slowly opening onto vistas of Quiet Beauty.

Yet, no indications of physical death appear imminent today. In view of my recent shift—letting death have its will in my body, when and how it will—this morning’s dream seems more of a call for a deeper stillness in my psyche, for a more mindful maintenance of my boundaries in the daylight world, and for communion with each remaining life breath in the time allotted me.

My gratitude for the opportunity to prepare for the greatest experience of this life knows no bounds—to enflower it with full-blown white roses that never fade.

It’s happening again: the blooming of the summer snowflake viburnum shrub outside my study window; its fresh pointed leaves give way to showy blossoms preening in the sunshine and attracting honey bees and occasional sparrows. 

From a distance, the swirls of whiteness suggest a frigid season long since passed. When we had planted the shrub, then about three feet tall, I wondered how many springs I would delight in its flowering. I would find out.

For six winters, I had shivered as drenching rains and ice storms pommeled the shrub, encrusting its lower branches within snow banks next to the house—Even found myself speaking words of encouragement to it, knowing I would have to be patient and wait. And the summer snowflake viburnum continued kept coming back, only taller, larger, and filled with more blossoms.

Like the summer snowflake viburnum, I wonder how many more growth cycles I must experience before going home. I feel ready but more winters could still lie ahead, and with them, even deeper learning.

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