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“I’ve never died before! I don’t know how to do this!” said Miki, slumped in a wheelchair at the table, her breathing supported by two linked concentrators whirring away like an intrusive helper. Lung cancer had created this dependence, her bloated cheeks bearing the indentations of the nasal tubing.

Her complaints drew compassion from her friends who had been visiting her in the nursing home since her admission, months before. Miki, the children’s reader at the city library, began to resemble one of her waifs—a wisp of hair emerging from her red knitted cap like a lost puppy. That was in 2016.

In my present circumstances, I think of Miki, of her initial resistance to the dose of morphine offered by the hospice nurse, of her transition, of the joyful funeral at St. Pius V, followed by lunch and memories with friends. Unlike, Miki, I’ve had almost two years managing my terminal disease and living with its culmination in the death of my body—sometime in the future, unknown to anyone.

I only have this twenty-four hours in which to breathe life into acceptance prayer and meditation as my energy wanes and I need more help. Yet, I’m still focused on my care plan, alternating blog composition, significant reading, and exercise, with resting, and listening to classical music. Difficulty making speech shortens phone contacts and visits. Tomorrow will be another opportunity to grow spiritually, if granted.

I learned much from Miki, ever mindful of her help.

A seasoned woman, whose quiet mirth has tickled us, is preparing to leave. A seasoned woman, whose heart-love cherished us, is relocating to Baltimore, Maryland, her simple belongings packed into a van. Now in the care of her married daughter, in the care of the assisted living staff, in the care of her new church community, in the care of the next women’s group she will discover, she will move through her end-days.

Caring lines etch her wizened face. Cropped white hair sets off her dark eyes, that bespeak unseen realities, a faraway wisdom. No longer does she live in the past or future. The present moment, one slipping seamlessly into the next, satisfies.

She has become deeply woman – as nurse, as physician’s wife, as mother of two daughters, as grandmother, as widow, as church member of Second Baptist, as neighbor in Brentwood Forest in St. Louis, Missouri, as friend and confidante of many. She has not flinched from life. She has been stretched, pained, challenged, cast adrift, bewildered, puzzled.

Yet within her angst lies the paradox of her continuing transformation. Within her hollowing, the hollowing of Another. Within fresh tears of this separation lies hilarity in the face of more diminishment. Within her darkness lies the Steadfast Light illuming her next step.

This is Jo. We will miss her very much, especially her Mickey Mouse hat.

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