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Yet another harrowing read has emerged from the ruins of Nazi Germany: White Rose Black Forest (2018) by Eoin Dempsey. From the first paragraph to the last, high drama ignites questions, teases out near misses, and displays murderous violence. Grave concern for the survival of nurse Franka Berger and John Lynch, a wounded American spy wearing the captain‘s uniform of the Luftwaffe, heightens the suspense.

What gives this novel substance, though, is Dempsey’s incorporation of the White Rose—a 1942 resistance movement made up of University of Munich students and their philosophy professor. For eight months they printed and distributed pamphlets informing the populace of Hitler’s true agenda, until caught and many executed by the Gestapo. Among them was blonde, blue-eyed Franka, only spared because of her Aryan features and the prospects of her birthing children to support the Third Reich’s Thousand Year Millennium.

And the wintry Black Forest, a large mountainous region in southwest Germany, serves as a volatile character: Its blizzards, ice storms, moonlit nights, and freezing temperatures tense the plight of the pursued and their pursuers.

Donovan’s judiciously selected images and terse dialog imprint this riveting story upon his readers. With Franka and John, we identify with their bone-shuddering cold, exhaustion, hunger, and thirst; with them, we recoil from the Gestapo’s cunning.

In my perception, the noteworthy merit of White Rose Black Forest lies in activating psychic wars within our depths, where Gestapo-like insanity lurks, searching for lapses in consciousness.

In my present circumstances, vigilance is key.

 

“You’re doing very well, Liz, managing your symptoms—and your vital signs are normal,” says Alice my hospice nurse as she folds up the pressure cuff and puts it away. “You know to call anytime you’ve got questions. We’re here to help.” I sit back in my armchair, noting her cheerfulness, her compassionate eyes, her capable hands. My heart brims with gratitude. Her Wednesday visits the past four months have companioned my efforts to remain conscious of my terminal illness.

And even more heartening is learning that we went to the same high school, Villa Duchesne, and that I was a friend with her aunt and deceased uncle, through Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in University City, Missouri.

Moreover, knowing that Alice will coach me through the loops of ILD with Rheumatoid Arthritis, my terminal disease, allays my terror. In no way can I prepare for this ordeal.

What I can do, though, is live each day to the fullest: blogging the experiences, exercising, eating well, resting, ADLs, praying, and mediating. Daily CPA meetings and phone calls with my sponsor keep me close to the 12 Steps.

And keeping fresh tulips on my dining room table buoys my spirit. All of this is the work of Precious God. There are no words—I’m grateful.

 

“Hi, Liz, I’m back to check on you again. Sorry about last week—more patients than I could handle.” It was Alice, my regular hospice nurse, tall, willowy, her ivory hands withdrawing her computer from her pink-embossed case as she sat down across from me. From her blue eyes emanated spirit, experience, and commitment to the dying process in my body, one day at a time—another coach to support this new venture into the Unknown.

She smiled as she looked around. “And that wreath on your front door—I had to touch it—flocked with berries, I think—lovely! And other decorations, as well.” Not all of them were given away, including my mother’s angel ornaments crisscrossing the tree in the hallway. Across from us, a white poinsettia hovered over crèche figurines, fired by a potter-friend, years ago.

“My helper Chrissy was here last week. The pine rope and bows across my porch railing—that’s more of her work.” But no seven-foot tree, still boxed in the basement, which had graced my glassed-in screen porch in past years.

Then, Alice asked her usual questions about my medication, appetite, sleep, and bowel functioning, took my vital signs—all were normal, save shortness of breath and weakness and still no pain. “Looks like you’ve no issues with self-care and dressing,” she added.

I nodded, though still dependent upon my clothing stick, my sock aid.

As she recorded her findings into her computer, I asked, “Have you worked with patients with ILD, my diagnosis? What does their end-time look like?”—Questions, until now, I’d been unable to formulate.

She paused in her work and said, “Yes—There’s no pain—only shortness of breath and weakness. And when your symptoms worsen, drugs will keep you comfortable as possible. That’s what we do.” Again, she smiled.

 

Available on Amazon

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