If you love the truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sun will illuminate you in God.” A trenchant saying attributed to the seventh-century Isaac the Syrian, Bishop, theologian, and monk, and regarded as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Simple words, if pondered, reveal the unseen caught in the flux of time. Key to this process is passion, whose firelight, like the sun, ignites inner worlds.

It does not take much to see who is truly alive among us: their quickening gaze, their resonant voices, their authority, of whatever age. They just seem to know. One was of these my teacher.

Her name was Ocie, a hospice patient, a city-dweller whose silent-hilarity infused her cramped bungalow with faded shutters set atop a hill. Bookcases of salt and pepper shakers from travels with her deceased husband and stacks of dust-covered photo albums jammed the front room. On the porch off the kitchen were stacked cages she had used for breeding canaries. Of scant importance were her shriveled right side, her perilous gait, her cropped white hair, her fingernails still dirtied from back-porch gardening. No pretense about her whatsoever. She’d been in the fire and loved to share the story with all who sat around her kitchen table.

I was among them.