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“It’s not surprising that this has happened,” said the nurse practitioner from hospice, come to evaluate my continued participation according to Medicare guidelines. Twice last year, I was almost discharged for not being sick enough.

From behind her mask, her dove-gray eyes filled with compassion as she responded to questions of my physical decline the past two weeks: sunken brown eyes, skeletal frame, snaking veins crisscrossing my abdomen, thighs, and arms, and protruding ribs like a xylophone. In my bathroom mirror stood the image of a forlorn Nazi prisoner milling around the ice-packed grounds of Auschwitz. I paused and looked again, pinched the flabby skin of my bruised forearm. This was real.

“Your symptoms give specificity to your decline,” she continued, “especially the weight loss, despite the amount of food which you eat. Your advanced years, your weakened metabolism, and your diseased lungs also stress your breathing and wear you down,” she said while folding her notebook and dropping it in her pouch. “You now fit our hospice template: six months or less to live.”  

I heard the words, “six months or less to live,” that defined the limits of my terminal illness, but still had to open my psyche to this reality and to surrender more deeply to the implications of my transition. I’d been in a holding pattern for over two years, blogged my experiences, worked the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous, and even participated in ZOOM meetings for the terminally ill.  Now, there was palpable change in my body that required response, providing that my mental faculties hold out.

No more denial. No more rationalization. No more idealization.

More than ever, each twenty-four hours is a gift from Creator God to be cherished.

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