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Who is this woman serving Jesus in the home she shared with her siblings Mary and Lazarus, outside of Jerusalem? Why still venerated among Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Eastern Orthodox Catholics whose feast day is celebrated today?

Her name is Martha, derived from the Aramaic, “the mistress,” or “the lady.” Outgoing, practical, accustomed to hard work, she recognized something special about Jesus and was the first to offer hospitality. A frequent guest when needing respite from teaching, he enjoyed her friendship and meals. However, his attraction to Mary’s spirit irritated Martha and drew her feisty complaint, recounted in Luke’s Gospel and still viewed as pejorative.

However, there’s more to Martha. She, it was, who first understood Jesus’s statement, “I am the resurrection and the life.” following the death of Lazarus in John’s Gospel. Instinctively, she knew who he really was and blurted, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world.” Unlike her sister’s mysticism, hers was grounded in the here and now.

On this day, I also celebrate my younger sister Martha who takes after her namesake. Quick to discern others’ needs, even quicker to offer practical help lightened by humor, she has supported my diminishing health with nightly phone calls. When in town, she has completed errands, sat with me in emergency rooms, drove me to appointments, bought special foods, even cut my hair several times. And always, the “Do you remember when…” stories that deepened compassion for our past and our having survived it.

Martha is currently sitting by the bedside of her former husband, receiving hospice care in a Toledo, Ohio nursing home. That’s what she does…

 

This midnight dream astounded me, left me wondering:

It is night, the waning moon filling the cloudless sky. Throngs of men, women, and children fill an amphitheater built within a hillside teeming with tall grasses, trembled by ocean breezes. Laughter, excitement, and expectation mount with passing moments. I feel vibrantly alive among them.

Once awake, I sat up, then, returned to sleep, only to have the dream reoccur.

Earlier in the evening, I’d been horrified by Yahoo’s narration of Portland’s Wall of Moms, walking arm in arm between protesters and federal agents—And the follow-up story of the Fathers Against Fascism with their leaf blowers. Whatever or however these stories occurred remains to be seen, but something horrific did happened that incited fears of the continuing violence in our country.

To return to the compensatory dream—The night speaks to the lateness of the hour, to time running out, given my advanced years. I am alone, unnerved by the crowds, agog with enthusiasm; they were privy to something I’ve yet to learn—something about story. My Dreamer wished me to join them. I do.

Under their tutelage I’ve already stumbled upon parts of my story, but more will be revealed, now that I’m safely ensconced in old age. I feel as though I’ve just pulled apart most of the wrappings of my birthright, foibles and all—it is wondrous.

So rather that leech stories from Yahoo, better to explore the recesses of my birthright, see what’s there, and continue coming alive, from the inside out. The quest deepens…

 

 

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!”

 

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