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A sugar maple flames above me. Slippery winds nudge a single leaf from its mooring:

Like a gymnast, it flips, sworls, twists, down, down, down. Then cartwheels upon glistening brick walk until flattened. Musk steams from the landing.

Prostrate, the leaf opens to the inevitable: Its ocher stem dried like a useless umbilical cord; hairy veins, empty of nutrients. Stillness gawks at the sacrifice.

Yet such decay rejuvenates the cycle. Again, spring’s leafing will flicker beneath sun-drenched skies.

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.

Like a mechanical toy with moveable parts, he lurched across the gym floor at the Y, his right hand splaying his cane before him, his mouth, a perfect round O. He was young—perhaps in his twenties, his stunted body wearing a black-and-white striped T-shirt and black pants. Still focused upon the next step, he headed toward the stairs and the indoor track for walking. Then, he was gone, unaware of my having waved to him.

A few minutes later, he emerged, running, the left hand loosely gripping the rail, and the right, his cane. In a short while, he completed the circular track, then stopped to catch his breath as two joggers passed him. A few moments later, he resumed walking, his dark hair swiping his full forehead as he studied each step with his cane. Although chronically off balance—perhaps the result of cerebral palsy—he was very much his own person, seemingly adjusted to living in a body that jerked, but one that was trim. He cared, or someone else cared, deeply.

Then, he was gone again, but his impression sank within my psyche—another life teacher, with indomitable spirit.

Such displays of quiet spirit evidence God’s healing, at work everywhere—even in life’s reversals—if we have courage to participate.

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