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This morning, two dreams stirred my psyche:

At 2:15 A.M. – A very old nun whose influence touched many lives has just died in her convent infirmary. It is midnight. Crews of professionals carrying their gear climb the stairs to her room and begin working on her remains. Others sit around her writing table and compose her obituary for the newspaper; another writes for literary journals. Bright fixtures cast a garish light upon this scene.

In the wake of this dream, pain crimped my breathing. The busyness of professionals fulfilling their respective roles angered me; their chatter screened feelings toward the deceased, a venerable old nun in my perception. The lighting seemed vulgar, obliterating shadows better served for viewing the deceased in her hospital bed. Yet, the dream’s noxious attitudes revealed deeper truth about my own passing. True, I’ve been blogging my hospice experience, now in its seventh month, seemingly open to the demise of my body—In my head, perhaps so; but in my body …?

And at 5 A.M. – I’m seated in a large classroom with other students, awaiting exams on the English poet we studied, our black folders stacked upon the professor’s desk. My folder, unlike the others, bulges with additional research on this poet’s striking images and meter. I had intended to remove my material before handing it in, but forgot. As the professor begins passing the exams, I leave my desk and retrieve my material.

The next dream suggests a time for testing. Unlike an examination for completed coursework, this one scrutinizes the mettle of our flawed humanness at life’s end. In biblical language, it’s called the last judgment. Somewhere lodged in the shadows of my psyche will be its unfolding. I dread the experience, given my sensitivity. But in the dream I’ve produced more material than was prescribed by the professor—perhaps a ploy to manipulate the outcome of the test.

To all of this, I cry “Mercy!”

 

Throughout my life, psychic eruptions have enveloped my senses within bliss, have demanded unheard-of changes, and have assuaged monstrous fears. Such turnarounds veiled their Source for decades, and puppet-like, I followed, not without experiencing its strangeness and the raised eyebrows of those around me. Still I knew better than to renege and walked away from religious and marital vows, cities, careers, and some friends. With the continuing support of my dreams and my Jungian analyst, I finally retired in 2001 to compose a story from the pieces of my life.

And such a story it is. Slowly, the shadowy outlines of the Source have evolved into fuller awareness: this same Source that is guiding my end time’s growth, one day at a time; this same Source with whom I long for communion that won’t withdraw within the pockets of my psyche. From them, nasty naysayers still harass me, still fling refuse upon my thoughts and choices, still frame my eighty-four year as failure.

But that no longer works—given decades of chronic illness and pain that’s rendered me with half-life and scraped me hollow. Within that same emptiness now flourishes fresh saplings yearning for light and moisture. Such nurturing continues with each day’s willingness to do the drill, no matter how long it takes. Although still homebound, my trips to the Source are unlimited.

Hope abounds.

 

“… Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.” The last strains soar to the rafters of this darkened church as we snuff out our candles and blink beneath the illumination of the overhead fixtures. The service is over. Once again the story inflames our hearts.

No matter that everything around us feels worn: the electric fans mounted on the dusky pink walls of this cruciform church; the cherry-red velour used in the drape behind the Italian marble altar, the upholstered presider’s chair, and the carpet in the sanctuary; the used poinsettias affixed at intervals along the wrought-iron communion rail; the languishing figures in the crib set; the carved receptacles mounted upon the backs of the pews that once held hymnals; the aging worshipers, about forty in number, in a church that used to hold hundreds; the hickory floorboards smoothed by decades of worshipers since 1894.

No matter that the city’s pollution besmirch the once white stones of this German Gothic church with its steeple enveloped in the night.

No matter that streetlights shadow abandoned houses, vacant lots, and brick sidewalks of North St. Louis as we drive toward home through the womb-like mist.

There is still life in such places for those who seek it. Emboldened by the Christmas story, laced with hardship and sacrifice, we carry its message of lightsome joy into the dark world around us.

Happy New Year!

 

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