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Around 4 A.M., I awoke with two illness dreams:

I am dressed but very unwell. I sit next to another woman, also with symptoms, anxious and self-absorbed. We wait for the delivery of medicine.

I am weak, can barely stand as another holds me from behind so that I can receive communion. Everything blurs before me.

This is the first time I remember appearing ill in my dreams, and significantly so, on my eighty-sixth birthday. My psyche reveals major distress. I’m powerless, depressed, barely alive. Only the compassion of others can sustain this onslaught of diseases that envelope my entire being.

On a deeper level, I search for understanding. True, I’ve had problems with my word processor and have been unable to compose for several days. Such focus, alone, establishes communion with Higher Power; without it, I become disconnected, abandoned, and anxious. True, more signs of aging, apart from my terminal illness, are appearing in my old body. And perhaps I’m still trying to fix myself.

Certainly, deeper acceptance is called for. Denial has no place here. It’s only moving forward, twenty-four hours at a time, supported by CPA’s Twelve Steps and the spiritual fellowship. And certainly, deeper emotional honesty is called for, as well. My eighty-six years of life feel like a heavy mantle over my shoulders, and only Higher Power can bring about its acceptance and deliverance.

So like a flickering candle-flame, I wait in the darkness for the next dream and its direction …

This morning, a preacher proclaimed on AM radio, “Change is inevitable. At times, Life demands it.”

His words seared themselves upon my awareness and blocked out the remainder of his text. Yes, I mused, he was speaking to me. I blinked hard, pulled myself up in my armchair, and flipped off the radio. His use of the verb, demand, stung where it needed to sting and left a gaping hole: Within, writhed glistening snakes of resistance that leered at me.

So wedded to my daily self-care routine for months, I could not imagine more diminishment that would impinge upon my functioning. That occurred with yesterday’s bout of food poisoning and the experience of a new level of sinking weakness. Slowly introducing soft foods has helped, somewhat.

But the power of the preacher’s words also caved in my denial of weight loss and daily walks and use of the NuStep at the YMCA. I thought I could fix these changes by eating bowls of ice cream at bedtime; it had worked in 1982 and 2012—No matter that sugars and dairy had triggered joint inflammations.

So it’s all about accepting the unacceptable: the physical death of my body. The preacher’s words, “Life demands it.” still goads this process over which I have no control. Resistance is futile. The only way out is through each twenty-four hours allotted me by God’s will. I’ve no other recourse. It is working …

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.

 

 

 

 

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