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It is June. The chestnut tree is a late bloomer: ten-inch white clusters tinged in red stand upright upon its branches like candles on a Christmas tree. Its dark green leaves can be nearly one foot in length, rough in texture, with minutely serrated edges. Known to grow over one hundred feet in height, its beauty elates observers.

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One smitten by such a tree was a thirteen-year-old who hid out in a three-story annex with her parents and her sister, and later with a second family and a dentist, in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam from 1942 to 1944. The cramped conditions on Prinsengracht Street frayed nerves, fired tempers. Often she climbed the ladder to the attic and gazed at the seasonal beauty of the chestnut tree, located in the city center below.

Anne Frank wrote in her diary: “From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree on whose branches little raindrops shine, and the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.”

Two other places in her diary she extols the glories of her Tree of Life, her portal to the Sacred.

After The Diary of Anne Frank was first published in Dutch in 1947, city officials designated this chestnut tree the Anne Frank Tree, and tourists honored it for decades. Unfortunately, in 2010 a rain-and-gale storm toppled the one hundred-and-forty-old-tree; but from it, eleven saplings have been planted around the world in Anne’s name.

Anne did not survive Bergen-Belsen in northern Germany, but her spirit still sings.

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“No wonder you’ve been so tired, my friend. The test results indicate that you have an inoperable Stage IV pancreatic cancer. With special care, you might have three to six months. I’m so sorry.” So said the oncologist to the gentle warrior, with Viking blood, and his wife seated in the examining room of the clinic that October afternoon.

Such scenarios are played out daily, but few share their responses. Not our gentle warrior. He described himself as knocked down upon his square, but not knocked off. Drawing upon his decades-long practice of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, he stood up, adjusted his armor, and tromped back into the fray. He would not isolate, but share his probing into dark places for their inestimable treasures.

Always a writer, he took to his computer. What followed from that decision was a parcel of poignant emails and journal entries sent first to family and friends, but then to his worldwide audience. Each sentence breathed absolute trust in his Father, his understanding of God, as he watched the cancer waste his energy, bloat his abdomen, wrack him with nausea and joint pains. Even when barfing in the toilet he felt the Christ join him on his cross; within this awareness, they both began laughing knowing this would pass. And it did.

On January 11, 2011, he breathed his last, attended by his oldest grandson in Minneapolis’s Unity Hospital. Fortunately for us, his wife Paula compiled these emails and journal entries into a special book, Earnie Larsen – His Last Steps (2012). It is available on Amazon.

 

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Available on Amazon

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