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Happily, I discovered one of many expressions of Vincent van Gogh’s angst shared in a letter with his brother Theo, his sole confidante:

“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by only see a wisp of smoke through the chimney, and go along their way. Look here, now, what must be done? Must one tend the inner fire, have salt in oneself, wait patiently yet with how much impatience for the hour when somebody will come and sit down near it—maybe to stay? Let him who believes in God wait for the hour that will come sooner or later.”  Letter # 155 from The Letters of Vincent van Gogh (1873 – 1890).

The great fire in our soul references the presence of the Sacred that van Gogh experienced in prayer and its extension in oils on canvases and other mediums. He knew the inner fire and the salt in oneself, both biblical images,that fueled his passion to explore the untried; but the impermanence of this state provoked impatience, and this letter seemed to have emanated from one of his dry spells. Still, van Gogh painted, subjects that caught his imagination, whether indoors or outdoors, at times, striking his passion into flame.

The oil-on-canvas, Plain Near Auvers (1890 – the year of his death) attracted my attention. Variants of greens, blues, yellows, and whites caught the dynamism of a peasant’s fields, with crows flitting among grasses in the foreground. The uncertainty of the sky escalates the drama: the Sacred surprises as in our lives. Note in the right-hand corner the addition of three red roses in the grasses.

Vincent van Gogh’s willingness to participate in the Creator’s plan, with broad brushstrokes and heavy pigments, challenges me to deepen my gift of writing in the time allotted me.  

Grace is like ebony wetness seeping into the chinks of my terminal illness: This, too, must be transformed—and so it is, instant by instant.

“Namaste, Liz!” Within the door-frame of my study stood the hospice chaplain, her eyes lowered, her fingers tented in a prayer position upon her chest. It was Eunice, time for our Thursday morning meeting, an appointment she has seldom canceled during our two years together. As she slipped off her navy jacket and sank into my desk chair, she crossed her legs, leaned forward. I was hers for the hour, mask and all.

“Good to see you, again, Eunice,” I said adjusting my voice amplifier to reduce the stress of making speech, one of the symptoms of my terminal illness. “Thanks for coming. Seems as you were just here.”

“I feel the same way. Picking up from where we left off comes easy.” Her soft eyes welled with compassion. The variety and depth of subjects explored, the book titles shared, questions about my blogs, the laughter, and the silent moments have opened us to the grace of the present moment—both eager to learn of LIFE’S fulness.

Early on, she had given me a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s paperback, The Miracle of Mindfulness: Introduction to the Practice of Meditation (1999). Periodically, have I thumbed its pages, paused to reflect upon its wisdom that startles in simplicity, that grounds in humility, that deepens my acceptance of what is—all of this while awaiting the most momentous experience in my short span of eighty-six years on planet Earth.

Until that time comes, Eunice will continue tracking my psycho-spiritual growth—a fascinating process, with each days’ dreams and new learning.

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