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Another night of psychic distress roused me. No dream snippets clued my sense of what was amiss, especially since yesterday’s puttering around had gone so well—even had my teeth cleaned. I was clearly in Step I: “We admitted we were powerless over terminal illness—that our lives had become unmanageable.” Yet, I preferred my comforter’s warmth to my chilled study and meditation with Recipe for Recovery. Hours limped by. Dawn light finally sulked like spent embers.

Bleary-eyed, I sat in my prayer chair, turned to the Ingredients of Step I, and mulled over “Accepting the Unacceptable.” Often, I had begun my day with this practice, one that countered the denial of my mortality and opened me to bliss on other side of my diminishment, however it played out. But this morning was different—my insides were raw as if scraped clean by a scalpel.

I groused, mindful of conscious efforts to live fully in the present moment, the locus of grace, as I thought I had done the day before. How was I to move toward acceptance of my terminal illness as practiced in CPA? What was I to learn? More daylight filtered through the blinds. I waited, listened to my breathing: inhaling, exhaling. I began to relax, wiggle my toes.

Then it happened—I fell prostrate before the God of my understanding, the source of last night’s distress. Anther lesson in humility was underway and I knew it. Beneath my façade of contentment still lurked control, albeit limited, of my homebound world. Without the support of oxygen and Dexamethasone, my symptoms would level me.

 

 

 

Again, I accepted my ultimate lack of control over my terminal illness, until the next rupture and lesson. I’m not humble.

I completed the first read of Kathleen Dowling Singh’s The Grace in Dying—How We Are Transformed Spiritually as We Die (1998) and was touched by the Latin treatise Ars Moriendi (The Art of Dying) that she references.

Sixty years of horrific deaths caused by the Black Death in Europe led an anonymous Dominican friar to compose this treatise, the long form in 1410 and the short one in 1450. It offered a template within which to view the “the five attacks of the devil,” integral to the dying process. As harsh as this process was, its outcome was deemed good, safe. Loved ones also received instruction on caring for the dying, together with suitable prayers for their transition. The 1450 treatise also contained twelve woodcuts, easily committed to memory by the illiterate.

Dr. Singh posits a psychological dimension to these “five attacks,” articulated in the Chaos phase: the self’s scouring the mental ego of malignancies buried within the psyche. Her corresponding templates enlarge those of the medieval monk’s: Belief/impatience and irritability; Social Contract/greed and avarice; Ego Sant/pride; Philosopher Charlatan/ moroseness; Disillusionment/desperation and agonizing qualms of consciousness. Never have I seen such purification that bespeaks the mystery of our humanness and ultimate destiny. We are are in good hands.

Dr. Singh also affirms the safety in dying and concludes, “In splendor and peace, we remerge with the luminous Ground of Being from which we once emerged.”

 

 

I awoke with this dream:

It is late afternoon. I wander around a hilly wooded estate. Beneath the milky sky winter’s austerity deepens my melancholy as I kick piles of leaves that litter the path. Stringy sweet potato vines spill over the sides of a cobalt blue planter and trail along the ground. I’m dismayed to discover the leaves are heavy, molten together. Exhausted, I head toward the great house and one of the bedrooms. I huddle beneath the comforter. No one is around.

 In the dream I have little energy that mirrors ILD, a terminal lung condition I’ve had for several years; the late afternoon suggests its duration and perhaps the length of time I can expect before passing.

Images of death abound. What had been a greening woods filled with bird trills, insects, squirrels and rabbits have been silenced by killing frosts; burnt beyond recognition are leaves of sweet potato vines and tree debris languishing in wind-tossed piles. No warmth to warm my body. No moisture to soothe the scarred lung tissue.

I am alone. Rage crimps my psyche, eviscerates change. How water this acutely dry condition? How restore urgently needed color? I need help.

Then I remember. “In my Father’s house, there are many rooms…” I’ve been welcomed here before. Again, someone in the estate has made my oversized bed, for sleep, for more dreams and more direction, one day at a time—and the rains do come, despite shortness of breath and weakness and fatigue.

 

 

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