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I tell you most solemnly, unless a wheat of grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it yields, it grows into a rich harvest.

This text from the gospel of John 24:12 has always startled my psyche from humdrum glitches and quickened my full awareness into the present moment. It carries an urgency I dare not heed.

In the time of Jesus of Nazareth, reputed to have spoken these words to converted Greeks who sought after him, the image of sowing fields was commonplace and often used as a metaphor. The death of the outer sheath of the wheat grain initiated the plant for further growth of roots, leaves, stem, head, and awn. Failure to actualize this process produced withered isolates and final death.

Even in our beginnings, there’s death: the sloughing off the placenta at birth, but it does not stop there. Awareness of sin or character defects warrant our full willingness to change as we experience life—To become our authentic selves before our allotted time ends.

Even more so, living with a terminal illness, the challenge looms. It seems as if Creator God implanted death within all of life: an irritant meant to actualize our potential so as to share with others.

Such enrichment surrounds us if we are willing.

Around 7 A.M., I awoke with this laughing dream, unlike I ever remember receiving:

Ellen Sheire, a close friend, invited me to join her for a weekend gathering of mixed artists, thinking I needed a change. My tension mounted as we drove through a heavily wooded area to the rustic house, built by the owners.

Games, unusual artworks crafted from materials taken from the environs, some painted in brilliant colors set everyone laughing. Off to myself, I marveled over the originality of the displays, also painfully aware that I longed to slough off my conservative attire, to laugh more, and to somehow become more colorful.

The last morning, I began cleaning up the dining room, littered by the guests, but Ellen stopped me and asked: “Don’t you know that half the fun of giving a party is cleaning up afterwards?”

This dream, rollicking with laughter—my jaws, my sides still aching from the hilarity—taught me to let up on my end-time babble. Everything that lives must die. My close friend and Jungian analyst in real life, Ellen Sheire, who knew me as no other ever did, always provided an antidote for the multiple complexes in which I stumbled and fell. And, here she surfaces in this dream with another antidote: No need to be spun around in grief’s vortex when there’s the option of laughter.

Again, like so many of those Friday morning hours, in her analysis room, I’ve been helped. I’m grateful and pray for fresh courage to laugh down the monstrous catastrophes spawned from fear of the unknown—as if there was no God to bring me home. In the meantime, there’s more psychic excavation to be done.

I can’t do this anymore! I admitted to myself, gripping my cane. Like stricken puppies, my legs, refused to move, despite my commanding them to do so. I was beached, immobile, furious, a storm crashing within me.

I had already checked into the YMCA, was sucking a lemon cough drip, and was standing at my usual start position by the entrance. Ahead of me stretched the wide corridor; its recessed lighting reflecting upon the floor had helped me maintain balance the four months I’d been coming here. My helper waited for me to begin my customary walk toward the gym and the exercise room, her shadowing each step lest I fall.

That was three days ago, an experience that left me floundering in self-pity, one of the faces of grief.

It’s all about acceptance: my terminal illness has taken another hit—and there have been many—but not as pronounced as this one: Weakness like I’ve never experienced, shortness of breath that worsens speech production, and muscle loss that rouses issues of disease gnawing away at my body, despite still eating full meals prepared by helpers or brought by friends.

Yes, there’s change. Rather than use my cane, I rely upon my wheeled walker to get about—It’s slower but still works. Happily, I’m still able to blog the ongoing experience of my terminal illness, and if appropriate, I will return to the Y’s NuStep and exercise my legs—not to walk as before, of course, but to keep going, one day at a time with Precious God’s help. Besides, I’ve friends there.

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