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Outside my study window, atop January’s hoary stubble, roiled menacing blacks, iridescent greens and blues, glinting in the morning sun. I shuddered. The scene resembled the threshold of Hades. Then, I remembered: grackles—I’d seen them before, scavenging overflowing dumpsters in upscale alleys, roosting in oak trees near turn-of the century residences in the Central West End.

As if snapped away by a magician’s cloak, the birds were gone. Still swamped by this intrusion, I blinked in disbelief, yet knew I had work to do.

With reluctance, I researched grackles with their yellow eyes and tiny black pupils, their large claws and scalpel-beaks and fan-shaped tails. Even the word grackle sounded guttural.

Other contributors, however, had differing impressions: colorful, intelligent, aggressive, resourceful, playful, adaptive, and at home within swarms. Like winds pommeling gates on rusted hinges, grackles’ cawing was unique to them. Again, I looked out the window at the backyard, long empty of the menace and reminded myself that grackles, too, are part of God’s creation.

That I still I felt uneasy plunged me into the cesspool of my prejudices: uninformed, spontaneous, unthinking reactions, activated by the morning’s grackles. Decades of unconscious living, with my eyes wide open, had harmed others and myself—had jaundiced my perception of life and kept me split off from Creator God.

So entrenched are these prejudices, though part of the human condition, they cry out for Mercy! I still need cleansing.

 

 

“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.

 

 

It was midnight: winds snapped tree limbs resembling Medusa’s snaky hair beneath halogen streetlights. Panic seized me. I sat bolt upright, the comforter, in folds upon my lap. Still drugged from REM sleep, I fished for my slippers, then steadied myself against the bookshelf before taking a step with my cane. I knew what to do.

I made it to the living room, plopped upon the sofa. I began to rock, slowly curling my spine forward, then back. With repetitions, the tempo increased. It felt like I was being held in a vise from which there was no release: My chest was tight; my eyes, irritated; my mind, hostage to whirl-a-gig ideation—my unconscious was in full revolt against my terminal illness. Back and forth, the madness continued, unabated. I knew that it would slowly diminish when played out. It was a matter of time.

Minutes passed, encased in discrete concrete blocks. Then, the repetitions slowed—my spine straightened, my breathing returned to near normal. With the attack winding down, I leaned against the back of the sofa and checked the mantel clock: it was 12:30 in the morning.

This was not the first time I’ve had panic attacks: sourced in my unconscious, they nudge me toward the enormity of my terminal illness. All well and good, my Step-work, the blogging, and other activities of each day, but my attachments to this existence run deep, per Dr. Singh. My new learning continues …

 

 

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