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At 7 A. M., I awoke with this reassuring dream:

“Will we see Jesus when we cross over to the other side?” I asked a venerable old priest.

Laughter crinkled his sagging jowls as he said, ”Of course, we will!” His mirth touched me deeply.

And I still feel his mirth as I write this blog, an antidote to last night’s soft fall after using the bedside commode. Accustomed to shutting its lid and standing up at the same time, I lost my balance, the bed catching my upper body, my sandaled feet scrambling to maintain my awkward position lest I slip onto the floor. Long moments of helplessness passed until I edged my way atop the bed, then shuddered. Sleep came immediately.

The dream snippet afforded me a window into my psyche, filled with the presence of a venerable old priest who has companioned me throughout my life. Again, he responds to a critical question, one often in my awareness as I move through suffering related to aging and living with terminal illness, the experience of most seniors I have known.

Too often the dregs of illness have eclipsed my imagination of its vision of eternal life, my symptoms holding me hostage. Like siroccos or hot dust-laden winds, hopelessness blinds and suffocates—Nothing lives.

In such circumstances, my venerable old priest appears bridging the chasm that separates me from the Sacred. He knows of my communion with Jesus, the Christ, critical for maintaining sanity in the midst of diminishment. In a time unknown to me, all this shall pass. 

Because I had no lead for today’s blog, I thumbed among my books for a favorite and withdrew When True Simplicity is Gained – Finding Spiritual Clarity in a Complex World (1998) by the father-and-son-team, Martin and Micah Marty. Its simple meditations interfacing black and white photos taken of the restored Shaker community in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, had inspired me to hold onto the book, despite periodic thinnings of my bookcase.

Within its yellowing pages, a card with a floral design slipped out, probably like blank ones I used to send. Then, I opened it. Inside were the generous strokes of my brother Mark, with birthday wishes for my sixty-fifth.

He wrote: “…it is your turn to celebrate the accomplishment of another year. May it bring you closer to your life’s goal and a trusting relaxation in the goodness of God at work in your soul and through your hands.”

These loving wishes, written on November 9, 2000, predated our falling out over Mother’s care following her 2003 stroke; it continued beyond her passing in 2008. Later, I’d hoped to make amends to Mark for my jealousy—usurping my relationship with Mother and becoming her favorite son—and for my envy for his unusual giftedness. Because he could not tolerate my presence, this amends could not happen.

In retrospect, though, his brief kiss on my cheek and his “Goodbye” after Easter brunch with the family in 2017 served that purpose. He died of cancer the following July.

Yet, from Mark’s 2000 birthday wishes comes fresh healing of an old wound. Such synchronicity staggers the imagination.

The cover of the card, with the linnaea borealis Twinflowers, also speaks to the resolution of this discord. I am forgiven… and still shuddering…

Still a nun, in August 1973, I had joined others for prayer at Pirates’ Beach, Galveston, Texas. Anticipation of long days of quiet quickened our steps as we climbed the steps to the glass-enclosed cottage, loaned by wealthy friends for our use. Inside, spoils of their African safaris lined walls, couches, and floors: black, white, and red.

The following morning, I pulled on my suit, grabbed a towel, and took off down the dune toward the expansive beach, empty of vacationers. If others had forewarned me of the Bay’s rip tides and the scorching sun, I had not pick it up—No matter my swollen knees and unsteady gait, I plodded on.

After what seemed a two-block walk, spent waves began circling my toes. I continued walking, eyeing the waters massaging my calves, my thighs, incrementally getting higher. I squinted, the immensity of the green-blue expanse thrilling me. Then, it happened: a wave knocked me over onto the sandy bottom, striated by the water’s swirls, my elbow breaking the fall. I was alone, no one around.

There, I sat, the sun toasting my shoulders, a solitary sea gull squawking above me, until a solution surfaced: to position myself in front of in-coming wave strong enough to lift me to my feet. On my own, I was unable to stand. For what seemed forever, I sought the critical wave.

When finally upright, sunburn crisping my face and upper body, I trudged toward the beach, only to realize I was miles from our beach home.

In subsequent years, life has had its way in knocking me over, not without its lessons. Solutions do come in time, and with them, new growth.

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