The skyline was lost in the midst of the stormy gray day, desperately sought by the sun’s veiled rays while dark cotton-candy clouds obscured the young woman’s vision. Propped up in the bed by various colorful throw pillows, Melanie Dufont stared down at her empty sketchpad with a frown, transferring her gaze alternately from the pristine white blank page on her clumsy lap to the darkening scene outside the picture window. Her paintbrushes stood like stalwart soldiers in a row, each bracketed on an easel-like wooden board secured on the table beside her, neighbors to the artist’s palettes, rags and vessels of water and cleaning agents strewn about in front of them.
Lil, the assigned home care nurse, looked in on her terminally ill patient.
“Hey, Mel, how you doin’? Need anything?”
“Only a magic wand to chase the blues away! My creative juices depend upon the weather today, I’m afraid,” shifting her position slightly to ease the pain.
Lil shrugged her shoulders with a sigh and then as an idea formed in her head, broke out in song:
“The sun’ll come out to-MOR-row, bet your bottom dollar . . .”
“Thanks, but I’d rather not wait,” smiling, “my time is limited and I want to capture my artistic passion now!”
As she spoke, it was as if God heard her prayer, peeling back the horizon to reveal the brilliant sun that was playing cat and mouse with the rain clouds—and winning! Melanie’s breath caught in her throat in awe as she grasped the piece of charcoal and began sketching. Lil tiptoed away, knowing from past experience that her charge would remain occupied for the next couple of hours.
The stout, solid brawny tree beckoned Melanie’s brush to action, reminding her, again, of the healthy person she had been before disease intruded, unwelcome, into her (then, strong) body. Filigree twigs sprouted from limbs hardened through the ages just like her hands, fingers, feet and toes had been appendages of athletic arms and legs. And upholding all were the tree’s and her body’s trunks, extracting life from buried, innermost far-reaching roots, the unseen forces of their very existences. She spent the longest time capturing the spilled velvety cherry blossoms, their profuse pink and red and white petals blanketing the ground, and wondered if she could ever again produce beautiful fruit—fruits of love and ministry and service.
“Oh, God, how awesome are your creations that show us strength and weakness knitted together in humanity, as well as in nature,” she whispered, her deep thoughts overwhelming in their intensity.
Excruciating pain, followed by a wave of familiar severe nausea, shot through her war-torn insides. Melanie placed the paintbrush handle between her teeth, barring down so hard she could taste the lead as she struggled to regain some semblance of control. Sweating, cold, and shaky, Melanie willed her body to release its hold on her mind. Slowly resuming the task at hand, she saw her reflection in the window, silhouetted over the tree’s surface. She paused, marveling at how something so delicate and silky as her hair and the cherry blossoms could come out of a toughened skull and a rough, stout tree trunk.
An hour and a half later, Lil returned with filled prescriptions and a few groceries.
“I’ll be right there, Mel! I brought you your favorite cookies,” shaking her head at her patient’s tunnel vision when inspiration seized her, “I bet you forgot to take a break—Melanie? Oh, Melanie, honey! Oh, God!”
Later that evening and after Melanie’s body had been taken away, Lil plopped down in the chair beside the empty bed, leaning over to pick up the scattered paints and pillows littering the floor. That was when she spied the sketchpad that had apparently been kicked under the table during the paramedics’ rescue efforts.
The piece was simply titled, “Shadows”. The only colors that had survived the spilled turpentine were the charcoaled outlines of a single barren tree and it’s corresponding cross-shaped reflection on the ground.
I Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
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