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At 5:30 A.M., I awoke to this joyous dream:

It is night. My god-daughter invited me to her home for a celebration. Not sure of the occasion, I went, having experienced many festivities with her family, her extended family and friends from her community. The usual warm glow, tables filled with sumptuous fare, children of all ages with their toys, and scintillating conversations fill the rooms. No one is excluded. But this occasion is different. My god-daughter is different. Usually a spirited woman, her buoyant laughter is more resonant than ever before. Her presence affords a charisma that everyone notices.

Night, again, speaks to the end of life. Time is of the essence, and unresolved issues must be settled. Each moment contains a cue for action toward even deeper acceptance of reality and humility and the elimination of denial and idealization.

Home suggests an enclosure in which I’ve interacted with countless people in my life, not always happily. True, forgiveness has balmed relationships, but the harsh judge, within—especially toward myself—still spews nastiness whenever triggered.

In Jungian terms, my god-daughter represents aspects of my positive animus: the innocent, the scholar, the caregiver, the beloved, and the explorer, in various stages of development.

Her vibrant energy empowers me to continue my end-time work and not lose heart. I’m grateful.

Although my symptoms continue constricting my life experience to the bare-bones essential, vibrant life still streams through my study windows. Through one of them, male cardinals have flitted among branches of the summer snowflake viburnum, possibly scouting a suitable place for a nest—Seems like they did that last year.

This morning, two females, their beaks filled with a single twig and bleached grasses, hovered over the designated site, dropped their loads, their getaways, a flurry of reddish-browns. Indeed, another nest is in progress. That also means yellow-mouthed fledglings, anxious feedings—insects, partially digested earthworms, around the clock.

The return of mating cardinals in my backyard also carries spiritual significance, especially as my end-time plays out.

With their reddish plumage, they stir deeper courage facing life’s challenges. They also serve as spirit guides, as models for embracing instinctive obedience to cyclical cues of life, and for activating the root chakra, red in color, that brings up emotions and beliefs around loyalty and a sense of belonging. 

Cardinals’ mating for life speaks of God’s unconditional love for all creation. They can also show up as a positive omen for finding your soul mate or twin flame, any time during the life span. 

Never having experienced death in my body before, other than obvious signs of aging, I’ll be specially companied during the coming weeks. I’m deeply moved …

“This is the Body of Christ, Liz,” she said placing the cross-incised wafer into my outstretched palms and returning to the chair in my study. Silence of communion etched innate belonging upon our psyches; we gleamed with the gift.

Only after raising my eyes did I begin to speak. “Thanks, Bridget, it’s been a long time. I so appreciate your coming to my home this morning,” I said, scooting back in my arm chair and noting the sun’s glimmer upon a cardinal’s wings, in flight. Before her arrival, I wondered what we’d have to share. Yet, words came easily, despite my departure from the church seventeen years ago, caused by a significant dream.

“I’m also glad to see you again, Liz. Your home is lovely, so welcoming. How long have you lived here?” And so, the conversation grew, with intervals of laughter.

In her younger years, Bridget had taught religious education to the parish children, then, went on for a degree in theology in spiritual direction and retreats, all the while, raising children with her husband, still an avid chess player. Her interest in my life experiences led to questions about my terminal illness.

“Do know that your name appears in the weekly bulletin—among the ill parishioners? Although you are not physically among us, we come to each of you, in prayer, Fridays at the church.” Of special note were her strong hands with a simple gold band and her lively eyes filled with life’s rough and tumble amusement.

Before we separated, I asked, “Bridget, will you remove your mask so I can see your face? It’s been a while.”

In the ensuing moment, unspeakable joy fused us to Another. The Gift deepens.

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