Burning Off Dross

Post Date: October 5th, 2014


I was hospitalized recently for high fevers that the medical team tied to a urinary tract infection. Ominously, the bacteria had crossed into my blood, potentially leading to the very serious condition of sepsis.

Despite two days of missteps in the emergency department, the third physician on the third night started a powerful IV antibiotic which turned out to be exactly the one that killed the particularly resistant bug in my system. He also admitted me to the hospital for more IV antibiotics, an infectious disease consultant and nursing care. I’m happy to report that all three were marvelous. 

Nonetheless I again spiked fevers in the hospital to the tune of 102.8, very high for an adult. These were proceeded by shaking chills so profound that my lips turned blue from the physiologic cold. The nurses were expert in helping bring the fever down but it still took nearly five hours for it to break completely.

After I was discharged I was still a bit weak and took naps. I had a vivid dream one afternoon, only one snippet of which I remember. There were stunningly beautiful, multicolored, translucent glass objets d’art. In contemplating this image I had the distinct impression that these represented my purified soul, that the fevers had burned off spiritual dross and I was allowed to glimpse the results.

This physio-spiritual burning off of dross has happened to me one other time – when I was recovering from my complicated cancer surgery three years ago. My suffering was great and lengthy, and I regarded it in hindsight as a purgatory where sins of omission and commission were cleansed away. Brightening my halo, my mother would have said. To me in my sixtieth year, it was a remarkable entrance to the third chapter of life.

The whole recent experience of being close to the edge of physical catastrophe and of being cleansed is, in the end, life affirming. I feel renewed in my desire to live vibrantly. And I see that I have an inner glow to share with the world.