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I jolted awake around 3:30 A.M. with this dream:

Word had gotten around that I was actually dying. My doorbell rang. My phone rang. Others knocked on the opened front door and came in and made their way to my bedroom, already filled with others paying their last respects. I’m sitting up in my full bed, unsupported, wearing a T-shirt, my forearms resting on the covers. Shortness of breath prevents me from speaking clearly. My words are muddled.

This startling dream gave me considerable pause: the ravages of death in my body, witnessed by others. Other dreams have suggested end-of-life issues, each with its own lesson, but none this specific.

My first response to this morning’s dream was repulsion toward the crowds filling my bungalow and their raucous noise. Seated atop my full bed, however, you would never have known: I was all smiles and gratitude toward my well-wishers, despite shortness of breath and muddled words.

I’ve always envisioned my serene passing like a beam of sunlight slowly opening onto vistas of Quiet Beauty.

Yet, no indications of physical death appear imminent today. In view of my recent shift—letting death have its will in my body, when and how it will—this morning’s dream seems more of a call for a deeper stillness in my psyche, for a more mindful maintenance of my boundaries in the daylight world, and for communion with each remaining life breath in the time allotted me.

My gratitude for the opportunity to prepare for the greatest experience of this life knows no bounds—to enflower it with full-blown white roses that never fade.

At 6 A.M., I was gentled awake with two inspiring dreams:

A wintry afternoon, its chill tempered by the sun’s warmth, I happen to meet my friend Pat Coughlin. Others joined us for and hugs and stimulating conversation.

A sumptuous banquet honored the Superior General of the Society of the Heart in a large dining room that opened out onto the deck. Hundreds enjoyed gourmet entrees and choice wines, seated around tables with white-starched linens and centerpieces of white roses and trailing ivy. Lively music supported the camaraderie, despite the Superior General’s inability to speak English. I was responsible for all the arrangements.

Deep joy suffused recall of these dreams, again revealing wholeness in my psyche. In both, I was fully present to the experience—No hiding out in defense mechanisms. I was alive and well.

The second dream places me in a servant ‘s role as I tended the needs of the Superior General and her community of which I had been a member for seventeen years. Gone are all my resentments toward them, after decades of seeking their removal—evidence of Higher Power doing for me what I cannot do for myself.

The fruit of dream work continues lightening my experience of old age with its limits. I’m grateful …

Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word. Thus began the pregnancy, like none other, of a comely virgin living in Nazareth, the land of Judea over two thousand years ago. Her name was Mary. Like those with child around her, she moved into the dailyness of the growth in her womb—She marveled.

Her quiet presence nurtured a place within the religious imaginations of her Son’s lowly folk who embellished her story, like His, into carols around the world. One of these honors her pregnancy and dates back to seventeenth-century Germany.  

Maria walks amid the thorn,
Kyrie eleison.
Maria walks amid the thorn,
Which seven years no leaf has born.
Jesus and Maria.

What ‘neath her heart doth Mary bear?
Kyrie eleison.
A little child doth Mary bear,
Beneath her heart He nestles there.
Jesus and Maria.

And as the two are passing near,
Kyrie eleison,
Lo! roses on the thorns appear,
Lo! roses on the thorns appear.
Jesus and Maria.

The carol, referenced in the hymnal Gesangbuch of Andernach, was universally known and liked at that time.

Its composer, perhaps a peasant smarting under conflicted political leaders, identified with Mary’s suffering; she, too, knew the prickly heal of the Romans, whose presence had raped their land, rendering it a place of thorns and bareness.

Yet, the composer’s hope unfurled like a brilliant pennant in his psyche, remembering the fetal life Mary bore in her womb and how it was changing the perception of herself. She would now be responsible in a new way.

Not only did he remember, but he surrendered to this new power already at work through Mary’s willingness to participate in the strange life opening before her. In place of thorns, now grew roses.

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