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Yesterday’s blog touched on morphine and roused interest in this drug that’s been around, in liquid or tablet form, for a long time. Without it, my end-time would look different.

The drug has an interesting history.

Between years of animal testing, 1803 and 1806, a twenty-one-year-old pharmaceutical assistant, Friedrich Wilhelm Serturner, isolated a potent substance from opium he then named morphine. Its soporific effects, also observed in himself, led him to name it after Morpheus, one of the thousand children of the Greek God, Hypnos.

Depicted as winged, silent, speedy, he accompanied individuals into sleep and took form in their dreams. Pierre Grimal’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology (1992) resources this night-time god and speaks to his presence in the Roman poetry of Ovid.

Serturner’s discovery also revolutionized the continuing development of chemistry, including further refinements of morphine and multiple protocols for incorporation into seas of pain. Relief came quickly, as also my case when I began the drug several months ago.

Patients with decades of RA, a systemic disease I’ve had over sixty years, discover the air sacs in their lungs hardening like cardboard. The only treatment is a lung transplant, but ingestion of morphine slows down the body’s decline. 

With the continuing support of Twelve Step recovery in Chronic Pain Anonymous and of hospice support, I continue managing my twenty-four routine. I have no physical pain.

Seems to me that airy paperwhites, from the Narcissus family, bridge winter’s fury and spring’s first blushing. Easily cultivated indoors, the dun-colored bulbs, the size of Ping-Pong balls, line watery bottoms of open vases whose tangled roots are stabilized within chips of marble or other stones.

Rotating the potted vases within the sun’s late morning warming facilitates the growth of straight green blades and stirs anticipation for what is coming. After three weeks of tending and waiting and loving, clusters of white flowers exude heady perfume that sweetens kitchens, or wherever placed.

Aside from the paperwhites’ beauty, others take solace in its symbolism: purity, simplicity, new beginnings, and innocence—Even virginal in its wholeness.

However, a review of the Narcissus myth, as told by the Roman poet Ovid and others, affords a different spin on the origins of this delicate flower. Its first flowering resulted from the over-infatuation of the handsome Narcissus, of godly parentage, his spurning other’s attention, and his death related to extreme isolation by the side of a river. Through this tragedy, the gods must have perceived some kind of deliverance and marked its significance by this fragrant flower.

However this story evolved in its multiple versions, it was often represented on the frescoed walls of the wealthy, especially in Pompeii, and the works of Renaissance artists.

But the paperwhites, from the Narcissus genus, still arouse my spirit and fill me with gratitude for their Sacred fragrance.

I can’t do this anymore! I admitted to myself, gripping my cane. Like stricken puppies, my legs, refused to move, despite my commanding them to do so. I was beached, immobile, furious, a storm crashing within me.

I had already checked into the YMCA, was sucking a lemon cough drip, and was standing at my usual start position by the entrance. Ahead of me stretched the wide corridor; its recessed lighting reflecting upon the floor had helped me maintain balance the four months I’d been coming here. My helper waited for me to begin my customary walk toward the gym and the exercise room, her shadowing each step lest I fall.

That was three days ago, an experience that left me floundering in self-pity, one of the faces of grief.

It’s all about acceptance: my terminal illness has taken another hit—and there have been many—but not as pronounced as this one: Weakness like I’ve never experienced, shortness of breath that worsens speech production, and muscle loss that rouses issues of disease gnawing away at my body, despite still eating full meals prepared by helpers or brought by friends.

Yes, there’s change. Rather than use my cane, I rely upon my wheeled walker to get about—It’s slower but still works. Happily, I’m still able to blog the ongoing experience of my terminal illness, and if appropriate, I will return to the Y’s NuStep and exercise my legs—not to walk as before, of course, but to keep going, one day at a time with Precious God’s help. Besides, I’ve friends there.

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