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At 7:15 A.M., I awoke with this dream:

A very old nun is dying in her infirmary cell, its door closed until this morning when I noticed it.

This dream recalled my experience as a young nun with first vows, newly assigned to the community’s 12-grade Academy in New Orleans. It was August 1963. I was asked to take my turn praying by the bedside of a comatose old nun. The sister infirmarian saw my distress and explained features of the dying process, underway: irregular breathing, death rattle, sunken cheeks, blue feet, mottled arms resting atop the thin bed sheet. But there was no prayer that afternoon; instead I watched the oscillating fan wrap humid sighs around the old nun’s nightcap, tied under her chin.

Long years passed before squeamishness around the dying lessened, but that that would happen to me was kept at bay, even while working with hospice patients.

However, this morning’s dream appears to be another invitation to explore death, up close—my own. Weakness, difficulty formulating words, shortness of breath, need for oxygen, nightly cocktails of morphine and Lorazapan, Miralax for my bowels, decreased appetite—all speak of what’s coming. No longer can the death of my body be denied through the maintenance of my daily routine, the last vestige of control. I’m still supported by spirited caregivers, my new coaches into the unknown, one day a time.

It’s about letting go, about falling into the arms of God as others have done before me.

 

 

It happened on an overcast March morning, usual in every respect, save reports of some infectious disease, distant from us. Not our concern, we said, getting the kids readied for school and shoving off to work. Little did we suspect…

 

Like the galloping invasion of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, pestilence, war, famine, and death have trounced our land and drastically altered our usual manner of functioning. At first, denial and rationalization softened the blow until weeks mushroomed into months, with rising numbers of those infected and dying from Covid-19.

As if the pandemic was not enough—Like a flashpoint, the George Floyd killing ignited demonstrations for police reform, both peaceful and violent, morphing into deeper mayhem, confusion, and polarization of our country. Meanwhile, exhaustion seeps into psyches, waters down problem solving, and thins endurance—A deadly scenario that cries for radical change, one found in the Gospels.

In my perception, the will to embrace the radical change that Jesus taught appears thin. Few care about cultivating humility, honesty, and love; it’s too costly—Easier to resolve problems with compromise.

Only such change of heart will bring about the longed-for restoration of our country that may or may not come in our lifetime. Besides, the work of the Four Horsemen is not finished—evil, far worse than the virus, still has us in its sway.

So what to do in the interim? From parched hearts, we pray for deep watering, one that cleanses and restores, despite the continuing tumult crashing around us. Protection does comes.

 

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me—Petition that concludes the Spiritual Exercises (1522-1524) of St Ignatius of Loyola, and one I used to pray during retreats, both in the convent and at Gloucester.

 My return to this radical prayer of self-giving challenges previous life reviews and invites deeper contemplation of Creator God, to whom I owe my eighty-four years of life.

Indeed, I have been fearfully and wonderfully made as reflected in Psalm 139:14—No matter the decades of rheumatoid arthritis and nasty obsessions that harrowed my spirit, unearthing pride’s minions with their infections. Such upheavals have compelled my dream work since 1988, as well as prayer with the Psalmist, Create, O God, a clean heart within me.

The resulting psychic changes, I see clearly now, reflect the vital process of actualizing my birthright. Where there were only bits and pieces of this and that in my psyche, internalized in desperation from others, there is now substance: memory, understanding, will, all that I have and possess companions my days through end time. Their uniqueness bathes my daylight hours with vibrant colors.

It has been said that life is a Gift. I feel this in every fiber of my being and with wordless praise return this Gift to Creator God, with my thumbprints. Thy love and thy grace… are sufficient for me.

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