Crushing pain in the chest and abdomen, breathing in shallow gaps, riding the tsunamis of spasms that wracked and wrecked my pancreas and lymph nodes.
It got too hard to cough, and breath started to leave.
I thought about calling Barbara from her room, sending Ladron the Chief Service Dog to get her, but what could she do? And she had to go to work in the morning.
So I stayed with the demons, and took their cold-burning embrace.
They left a bit later, only to return with their friends as the sky began to lighten.
Seeing the monsters more clearly in the gathering dawn, they were even more frightening than they were when concealed by darkness. They wanted to torture me, and then kill me, and in their faces there was no mercy, nothing to which I could appeal.
And I'm OK.
I'm OK because my life has meaning.
I used to think that meaning was defined by what I do, praying for Barb and supporting her in her work, taking care of the dogs, witnessing to the power of hope and faith and love in this blog.
But it's all of these things...and none of them.
The purpose I saw sprang from joy, a joy that endured the pain and the degradation of things like incontinence and puking that won't stop, and the loss of everything I trained to do.
Joy is my purpose.
For didn't a Jewish carpenter say, a while back, that He came so that we could have joy, and that our joy would be full?
He didn't put preconditions on it. He didn't say, "Yeah, well, believe in Me and I'll see that things go well, and you'll be happy about that."
I mean, after all, look at how Life On Earth worked out for Him. Whipped half to death, nailed to a cross, and all that. Bummer of a way to spend a Friday, dude.
He just said that in Him, we'd find joy. Period, full stop.
Jesus is joy.
And that is the meaning of the whole thing.
Music from Van Halen (with the great avid Lee Roth), with Jump.
Thanks to Carol Ashby, Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart is back on Kindle, and will be available in paperback soon.
Friends are everything. I couldn't have done it.