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Daily adherence to my routine of self-care, basically unchanged since last March, convinces me that countless prayer supports this uncharted journey in which I’m largely content. My gratitude soars, my new learning challenges and enriches, my diminishments, especially my silvery-white wavy hair, a surprise. And with these changes, I’ve scraped free the outer Liz that no longer works, reminding me of the transparent skin of a garden snake I discovered in my front garden, years ago; its owner, freshly gone.  

But there are interludes of transient pain, clothes that no longer fit, phone calls from solicitors, tiring conversation from visitors. At times, meals lose their taste, fatigue chokes my spirit, and my dry eyes burn, even with Refresh. At other times, noisy motorcycles roar past my bungalow, delivery trucks inch past parked cars, and lawn mowers manicure yards already trimmed.

And occasional exposure to the global news confounds me even deeper and jettisons me into prayer, especially for growing families. And even August colors sigh with inevitable change—the marigolds in my flower beds straggle with blackened leaves.

When yanked away from what I want, I resort to Jesus’s teaching in Luke 12:19:

I’ve come to cast fire upon the earth and I wish it were blazing already.

This same gentle fire informs both Gospel and Twelve Step living and restores my acceptance of “Life on life’s terms” until the next downer. This is how the gentle fire works. It always does.

At 7:20 A.M., I awoke with this healing dream:

It is evening. I’m walking outdoors, anxious. My tooth aches and my dentist’s office is closed for the day. Out of the blue, another dentist sees my distress and offers his treatment: laughing gas. Despite its unfamiliarity, I agree. After injecting my body with the tiniest of pinpricks, the tooth pain is gone, and we resume walking.

The dream’s time, evening, suggests my waning energies, all the more depleted by my terminal illness. My toothache, a disorder that pains me, suggests my inability to chew deeply through experiences, to avoid matters that command my attention, even hold anything in place—an irritant that sours my mood and plunges me into self-pity: nothing matters other than the diseased tooth.

The toothache also suggests weeks of being out of sorts, soured by my new symptoms and side effects of a new drug.

The dentist, unknown from reality, suggests “a power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity,” or in other words, the Sacred disguised beneath the practitioner who knows my distress and offers specific help, laughing gas. The numerous pinpricks, barely felt, suggest cues toward deeper practice of the Twelve Steps and the rediscovery of the joy of living.

My healing astounds me and together, we walk into the evening, enjoying dusk’s sky-colors through bare branches of trees.

(Sir Humphrey Davy, early nineteenth century English chemist and inventor, colloquialized nitrous oxide into laughing gas, a reaction caused by inhaling it.)

O King of all Nations
And Keystone of the Church:
Come and Save Us
Whom you Formed from the Dust.

The sixth O Antiphon, December 22, 2021, implores the Christ as the King of all peoples and law-giver to recreate, anew, what was begun in the Genesis story of creation, 2:7.
Despite the rent of the first sin with its attendant sufferings and pain, Creator God took compassion upon the work of his hands and sent helpers: the patriarchs, the prophets, even kings to assuage the demands of His Chosen People who wanted to be like their grandiose neighbors. Still sin held sway over hearts, and within its moral darkness, followed periodic destruction and mayhem and exile by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Assyrians.
Even His son, Jesus of Nazareth was sent. Still to no avail: eyes remain blind, ears, stopped. Most of the heart of mankind remains locked in stone.
Yet, a remnant of the faithful, the anawim, the little people with humble hearts have always remained through the tattered world. Among them, the Christ mysteries are vibrantly alive in prayer and gladdens their hearts of flesh.
With them, we still cry out,”Come!”

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