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Outside my study window, another lesson unfolds. Dove-gray skies feel pregnant with showers but only release droplets upon single leaves of the viburnum, then sets them aquivering; those surrounding them remain still. This image speaks of the seeming randomness of physical death: One is struck while others are engaged in life, until their turn—or so it seems.

But a plan far greater than our human perception exists, and it’s not of our doing. At times, the appearance of a life shortened by accident or disease compounds the grief of loss, the thwarting of opportunities, and the shortening of longevity. Individuals must re-group and move on with their lives.

Since mid-June, death has stilled the breathing of friends, relatives, and neighbors, losses that crimped my former world, still further. Questions of how it was, remain unanswered.

Instead of succumbing to loneliness’s pinch, better to pray for acceptance with the mantra:

Your will, not mine, be done.

Such prayer works its wisdom into the marrow of my bones and enlarges faith in God’s plan for my transition. For the present, like the leaf without the droplet, I cling to the viburnum bush.

In memory, I return to the first morning of my arrival at East Gloucester, Massachusetts, stretch into the bleached lawn chair next to the ocean, and open my citified world to nature’s expansive healing. Desperate is my need for watering.

October’s brilliance caps hesitant waves with opulence that lap against the base of the monolithic Brace Rock; it resembles a dusky pachyderm snoozing in the morning heat, its humps whitened by decades of excrement. Against luminous skies, crowds of herring gulls honk into fly-space, while others pump their wings, catch columns of wind, gliding in somersaults and pinwheels. Like cobra helicopters, twin ravens pan the boulder-strewn shore until they vanish.

I breathe deeply in my chair, then notice surf-bubbles skittering among handfuls of sandpipers, toeing the grainy sand like princesses. Upon stringy brackish seaweed, mosquitoes crowd like irritable shoppers in check-out lines.

Nearby, splashy quilts of wild grasses, golden rod, and sumac enliven miles of bronzed granite rocks along the coast. A solitary honeybee suns upon the breast of a goldenrod spear. A rare Monarch butterfly collapses its circus wings and alights on the fringed tip of purple loose strife.

A cobalt sky smiles upon this riotous foreplay. Time hangs suspended upon boney and gossamer wings. Within this jeweled kaleidoscope, an unseen power reveals her Soul and invites surrender.

Again, it has been done. I’m washed, clean.

Inhale/exhale: for most of us, breathing is an unconscious process but vital for living. For those with pulmonary issues, though, breathing becomes conscious and maintains intimate contact with reality. Accustomed defense mechanisms cease; in their absence, emotional honesty deepens, and the search for the meaningful increases.

Such has been my experience. My daily dependence upon medicines dispensed through a nebulizer, morning and evening, continue treating my hardening air sacs and teaching me, as well, through listening to the world around me.

This morning, a dear friend shared a significant quote from the fifteenth-century Indian poet and mystic Kabr:  

What is God? the student asked? He is the breath inside the breath.

I was already familiar with the Hebrew word, ruah, signifying God’s breath and or spirit, used in the two Genesis stories and in Pentecost’s gift of tongues, found in the Acts of the Apostles. Decades of meditations on this concept seemed to postulate a God, outside of me who somehow cared and protected me for long years. But Kabr’s experience of God as Breath has revolutionized my sense of Him, and the use of the nebulizer.

Ordinarily an exhausting and boring treatment requiring a minimum of seventy inhalations, each one now begins with awareness of emptied lungs, slowly filling them until unable to take another breath, but taking another, sometimes two, that touches my Essence—admittedly, a different way to meditate but it works.

I suspect this practice of Kabir’s understanding must alleviate the sting of physical death. There’s no record of his own.

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