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Annie Turner

Annie Turner
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Saturday, October 4, 2014

MIDWIVES AT THE END OF LIFE

As I enter the category of aging broad, I notice that I am visiting my doctor more frequently than I would like.  It's not for serious things like congestive heart failure or crumbling spine.  It's more annoyances of the corpus:  Baker's Cyst (so named for the poor men who stood all day baking and developed little pockets of synovial fluid behind their knees); a meniscus torn when I was exercising my ass off; worsening GERD (perhaps two glasses of wine nightly is NOT a good idea?); and weird feet.

All of this reminded me of my two pregnancies when I started out seeing my midwife every six weeks, then once a month, every two weeks, and once weekly as my delivery date approached.  I loved hefting my bulk onto the examining couch and having the midwife listen to the baby's heartbeat and feel her position; have her check my own heartbeat and blood pressure; and make sure all was well.  I felt so taken care of, so safe.

Now as I am in the final quarter of my life, I feel like that long ago pregnant woman trundling into the doctor's office to get checked.  Except now I limp.  I am being assessed to make sure my body is still functioning reasonably well.  Note I use the word "reasonably," but not "fabulously," nor "amazingly well."  Those days are gone, and that's okay.  I am grateful to be still upright and cogent, and relieved to have medical personnel who accompany me on this journey.

I am also grateful to my spiritual companions--priests, pastors, and friends with whom I talk about theology, God, angels, human evil, the random and unexpected nature of things, and the beauty and precision of the universe.  Sometimes we even quote Aquinas--but not easily.  Sometimes we talk of my favorite Franciscan, Richard Rohr, and the luminescent Barbara Brown Taylor, all wise people who know what it is like to sit in the last car of the mortal train.

Like someone looking through the back window of the caboose, I find myself remembering in ways I haven't before: camping out in a sweet meadow and watching for shooting starts; listening to my dad read "Half-Magic" to us before bed; putting marshmallows into the fire until they were a tasty, charred black;  getting married under the butternut tree at my parents' house; nursing my babies and feeling perfect contentment; recalling so many sweet stops on this journey--love, laughter, tears, and the warm clasp of hands as someone I loved said goodbye.