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Tom, my older brother, deceased since February 2005, visited in this morning’s dream:

It’s night. I’m alone. After a long absence, I’ve been attending a gathering at my parish church. As I approach the exit I’m surprised to see my brother Tom, stunningly handsome in his dark overcoat, his blue eyes searching for mine. He reaches for my hands, holds them in both of his and says, “Let’s take this slow. This is new for me.”

For several hours I felt his loving presence while reflecting upon the staggering implications of his visit: The residue of our conflicted childhood was over.

In my perception, our mother’s unconscious enmeshment of Tom had engulfed him in chronic anger that, of necessity, he displaced upon me when growing up. Only when he left home for college in 1952 could I breathe. But he did love me, as he was able.

Evidence of this is found in the 1957 letter I received from him while fulfilling his ROTC service in the U. S. Navy. “Your choice to enter the convent does not surprise me. No man is worthy of you,” he wrote. He saw me like none other.

Then came Tom’s 2002 note, months after having vascular surgery on his right leg, “…you emerged as the No. 1 rooter for yours truly…thanks for that and all the other nice, unselfish things you do for us all.”

In his passing, three years later, he also shared his exquisite joy with me. He was finally home.

And now Tom’s plea, spoken in soft tones, unlike his usual speech, “Let’s take this slow. This is new for me.” left me wondering—perhaps to continue this dialogue, even enlist his help in the time remaining.

 

 

Planet Earth hisses with unquenchable fires of greed, rage, pride, lust, gluttony, envy, and sloth. I know, having experienced all of them, the eruption of instincts gone wild. Seldom is there enough. Needs for more pleasuring, more status, and more security eviscerate spirits, jaded and empty like back alley dumpsters. Whatever is trending at the moment catches excitement and maxed-out credit cards.

Such excesses compel hospital chains to construct still more facilities to accommodate technological advances, to woo the sickly with promises of health, to strip insurance plans of substance. Strapped upon Procrustean beds, the numbers must look right.

Such excesses impoverish families of basic necessities, over stimulate sensory receptors that frustrate learning, enervate intimacy, and obliterate traces of uniqueness. Sleep deprived, robot-like trudging from sunup to sundown, body breakdown accelerates aging and leers at change.

Such excesses drain leaders of courage, compel them to adhere to the tried and true, and compose windy legislation that serves no one. On all levels, violence continues eroding the ground we stand upon.

Such excesses have even besmirched church sanctuaries run like corporations to stay afloat, hobbled aging pastors of zest and watered down their homilies—Their sole purpose, to retire when permitted by their bishops or boards.

No wonder that Covid-19 threatens Planet Earth with its sputtering half-life, with its feverish weather cycles. Certainly, we’ve never seen the like. Lest overwhelmed, I resort to my inner world and sink within silence. Therein likes the antidote to this global Bedlam: the purifying flame of Spirit.

With the Psalmist we pray: Send forth thy spirit…and renew the face of the earth. Let the refining fire begin with our willingness to change. We’re not alone.

At 2:25 A.M, a dream gentled my awareness:

It was Sunday morning; an oatmeal sky gloomed the city street as worshippers headed toward the church, its steeple still mottled from earlier rains. Among them sloshed a solitary woman in ill-fitting galoshes, her paisley scarf framing saw-toothed bangs, sallow cheeks, and pinched jowls. Winds whipped the tails of her faded coat, belted several times around her birdlike frame.

Initially the dream drew my compassion until I began to work with it and recognized myself in this impoverished woman.

Unlike her Good Will appearance, however, I was always dressed to the nines. It was her spirit that appalled me: bleak, colorless, taut as the power lines above her. Her aura seemed splintered, her energy dribbling upon the cracked sidewalk. A stranger to humor, to her tears, she seemed unaware of the wasteland burdening her stooped shoulders.

Because my Dreamer never lies, I own this beleaguered spirit; it feels rough, gangly, like a pimpled teen falling off a skateboard. Grounded, I no longer placate the god of control spinning webs of sticky illusion to appease my fear. In my arrogance, I had thought I was further along in my transition. But how absurd is it to plan for the totally known, despite years of scripture studies, of near death studies, and sitting with the terminally ill. True, I’ve learned much, but still the unknown remains the unknown. There’s no getting around it.

With the Psalmist, I continue to cry out, “Create, O God, a clean heart within me. Renew a right spirit within me.” On my own, this is impossible.

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