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At 6:20 A.M., I woke with this dream:

It is evening service at the black church I’ve been attending, at the invitation of the pastor and his wife. Again, I’m greeted and enter the fellowship filled with hymns and prayer. Other than occasional constipation, I am well. The pastor, also a physician, will perform a proctologic exam in his office in the morning. Having had one before, I’m anxious.

The vibrant setting of this dream, the evening service at the black church, opens my psyche to hidden disorders that require identification and correction. The occasional constipation keeps my body/mind starved of vital nutrients, dulls my perceptions, and dumps me within the morass of sloth: Why bother?

The pastor bridges the gap between God’s presence and the worshipers in his black church: such engagement restores disorders that sludge human interactions and quickens spirits into living flames. On my own, I’m powerless to achieve the wholeness to which I aspire.

Yet, I’m anxious. Given my long-standing pride, it’s painful to admit my arrogance and willfulness, smirches upon my character for all to behold. For much of my life, pretense kept such disorders at bay; whenever aware of them, I barely nodded at their toxicity.

Since working the Twelve Steps in Recovery, however, such disclosures become frequent cries to Higher Power to effect the necessary changes. This is precisely the task of spirituality.

With the afflicted Job (10:6), I identify with his cry to God: You must search out my faults and probe after my sin. Such purification works: It’s about becoming humble and serving others.

Sunshine streaming through the Christmas holly shrub outside my bedroom window enlivened the wing back chair with sprightly shadows, on holiday. It was seven-thirty, morning. I blinked hard, checked my watch again, and grinned. Only moments before had I turned out the lamp and snuggled beneath the flannel sheets and comforter and began my mantra, “Passion of Christ, strengthen Malaysian women sexually abused on palm oil plantations.” Then, it had been nine o’clock.

Methodically, I began stretching exercises, upon my back, while reflecting upon this marvel of marvels: I had slept through the night. No dry mouth, no bathroom breaks, no hunger spells, no strong dreams, no elbow or foot pain, no worries about tomorrow—above all, not scrutinizing the hours of the clock, like the watchman in the psalm yearning for dawn and release from the menacing dark. Only flitting dream of helping others flitted in and out of awareness.

I recognized the gift of sleep and gave thanks for last night’s willingness to exercise, despite blithering fatigue. Perhaps, that’s what made the difference, or thrilling to Jules Massenet’s incidental music, or perhaps taking the “Cocktail,” for months, the same dose: 0.3 Morphine and 0.3 Lorazapan.

Whatever it was, I slept, and the sun seems brighter today.

“Hey, Tracy, I’ve changed my mind about the cocktail. It might help,” I said into the baby monitor tied to the head of my bed. Behind me, blinds filtered the porch light around my bed, the comforter tossed aside. In no time, flip-flops patterned the hardwood floor and my helper appeared by my bed. I continued. “I thought I’d be okay with my nebulizer treatment, the deep breathing exercises, and my oxygen, but not tonight. I need help.”

My long history of having taken ineffective drugs for rheumatoid arthritis quelled their further taking after 1997. Until last November, I had managed well enough with supplements, diet, and exercise. Then, the diagnosis of my terminal illness qualified me for hospice and their use of palliative drugs. And last night I needed the cocktail—low doses of Lorazapan and morphine—to relax and help me breath.

With deft hands, Tracy emptied the prefilled syringes into my mouth and helped settle me in bed before turning out the light, not leaving without our hug.

Within the warmth of my comforter, I awaited the mellow rush of the cocktail, evidence of its soothing presence and forerunner of sleep’s oblivion, which I had experienced four other times, but nothing was happening. My body remained tense as I watched quarter-hours pass.

Weary as the wife of the Patriarch Methuselah, I parked against the side of my bed and began deep breathing and rocking. Eventually, I stopped counting repetitions—only my body knew how many.

Enough, I heard, then climbed into bed before wrapped within oblivion’s mantel.

Seven hours later I awoke to the aroma of quinoa that Tracy was cooking for my breakfast. Another day of new learning opened before me.

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