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I stand corrected…

Soon I will begin my ninth month in hospice care—a period of waiting, praying, and blogging about my terminal illness: Interstitial Lung Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Yet, my body shows no signs of dying, other than weakness, shortness of breath, and the wear and tear of eighty-four years.

Little did I realize that musing in the ambulance—I wonder of this will be a life changing event—would, in fact, come true. That was in June 2017 when I tripped over the cord of my vacuum cleaner and fractured several bones. Surgeries, rehab, and two months of personal care in my home followed this event. Still, I thought, in time, I’d return to my former level of functioning. That did not happen, but I failed to see the obvious implications: my body was old and no doctoring could fix that.

Hidden from me was the abhorrence of old age with its spend-saver diminishments. That was not for me. Because I observed the directives of my Pilates coach, I imagined my elder years with full functioning. Besides, our mother lived to be ninety-nine years old.

Rather than focus upon my end-time, as if I’m unique in that regard, I choose to open up the riches packed within the gift of old age: prayer, singing, listening, story telling, and laughing, gifts found in Shakespeare’s King Lear. Perhaps there are still more gifts, unknown to me at this blogging, with their incentive to renew my trust in Creator God, the source of my words.

Indeed, the end of my existence will come, but not before I’ve lived fully in old age, a new container for my psyche.

 

 

 

 

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” I fidgeted with the laminated card containing the vow formula—almost dropped it on my lap as I struggled to regain awareness of what I was doing. I was twenty-nine years old.

It was July 22, 1965, feast day of St. Mary Magdalen, a steamy morning in the fan-cooled Gothic chapel of the Motherhouse in Rome, Italy. Perspiration filmed sallow cheeks within my frilled cap, hunger scoured my innards, and skirts of my Sunday habit covered my polished Oxfords. Behind us, knelt families and friends gathered to witness our final profession of poverty, chastity, and obedience, until death, in our community.

Despite worsening stiffness in my knees and generalized malaise, I had completed five months of probation, the final formation and testing before taking this step. Conferences on the Rule and Constitutions—although in French, the universal language of the community—long hours of prayer and reflection, and direction with the Superior had spirited me toward this oblation, I perceived as God’s will.

Yet, emptiness smacked within the fissures of my psyche as I continued reading the vow formula. Where was my heart? Did I ever have one or had I been pretending all along? Who was this inner stranger, scowling at me? I was supposed to be happy.

As it turned out, seventeen years later I left the community to search for my heart, an arduous process more austere than practiced as a nun.

In the midst of another formation, this time in hospice, I’m preparing for another oblation that will jettison me from all forms of death into the arms of my Beloved. To Him, I’ll offer my scarred, but graced, heart. This is working out…

 

At midnight, this dream startled me:

A festive mood circulates among well-wishers, dressed to the nines, seated upon white folding chairs in a large clearing encircled by virgin pines. Beneath a brilliant sun the wedding party make last minute adjustments to their floral gowns, tweak daisies and yellow coneflowers in their bouquets while sharing stories of the couple. Near the tulle-decked canopy stands the minister who reviews the readings for the ceremony. Suddenly, like a summer squall, a pall douses the guests—the bride has died.

 This dream mirrors extremes in my psyche: vibrant health and death. Such information corresponds to my hospice experience, the richest period in my life.

Despite occasional symptoms that unnerve me, vibrancy of spirit permeates my diseased eighty-four-old-body with fresh élan. Each day’s adventure increases the aching for ultimate communion (the wedding) that awaits me. I am ready, but as in the dream story, I’ve still more dying to experience: The skid marks of self-absorption and rage, imprinted upon my psyche by a lifetime of chronic pain and illness must be addressed.

As in the dream, harmony evidences the Sacred-in-our-midst: the bright spirits of my helpers, the camaraderie of CPA recovery, the greening outside my study windows, the laughter of helmeted kids on scooters pumping along sidewalks—Above all, those moments of cherishing the hidden treasure in the field that Jesus talks about.

As also in the dream, summer’s riotous colors play upon my imagination, jostle words into figures of speech for use in my writing. Even yesterday’s squall refreshes my spirit.

Such dreams afford significant guidance and companion my nights/days as I move through end time, with its grace-in the-moment.

 

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