Are you open?

Watch me paint “Bird of Light” in 2 minutes (time lapse)

From my book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith”:

The oil painting “Bird of Light” was created especially for this collection, and specifically for this section “Life after Death”.

I wanted to share with you about how Mom (who passed away many years ago) seems to communicate with us. Numbers were important to her, and Mom had a habit of calculating figures in a notebook. She would do this by hand, usually to add and subtract purchases. She kept a balanced checkbook and would become anxious if even a single penny was off. She’d do the math over and over until she found the error and the account was balanced. This type of focus is a big part of who she was, so it makes sense that, instead of seeing cardinals or butterflies- as many people see when loved ones pass- we were instead seeing a number.

Specifically, we were seeing the number 62. It took us a while to catch on that this number kept popping up, happening so often that it defied the statistical laws of probability, but eventually we made the connection. Mom was sixty-two when she died. That number was connected to her, and I also knew that the age she was would have been significant to her. So, it makes sense, as long as I’m open to the idea that our loved ones communicate with us in a way that is recognizable, identifiable, and also timely.

As in, we see 62’s more often when we are going through a hardship, approaching a milestone, or coming up on the anniversary of something. We’d see 62 on a license plate directly in front of us, on billboards, in a show, on a receipt, in a price tag, in a phone number- anywhere where numbers are found, we may see a 62 several times in a single day.

I didn’t know how to paint a number, without actually painting the number, but the idea came to me to paint an abstract that captures the idea of the number, drawing into my emotions about Mom, and the essence of her- what colors did she like, what colors seemed to represent her?

I began by literally painting the number sixty-two on the canvas and using a variation of the “doodle game” that she and her family used to play with me when I was little. I could always draw very well, like my dad. The other side of the family was enchanted by watching Dad and I draw. They’d draw a doodle- just a curved line or shape- and challenge us to draw something from it.

When I painted the number sixty-two, it felt like Mom had given me a doodle game challenge, which I thought I’d blend into an abstract art, but it took on the shape of a bird. I was attempting to blend the colors while deliberately avoiding making recognizable shapes, but shapes formed anyway. It looked like wings were in my brush strokes, and part of a bird shape. I realized that Mom wouldn’t like abstract art, but a subtle simple bird in her favorite colors would probably be her cup of tea.

So, again, it all made sense… as long as I was open to the experience. And that’s how, instead of an abstract named “62”, Mom’s painting became “Bird of Light”.

An update:

This past week my daughter received her first paycheck from her new job. Guess what number was in the random serial number on the paycheck? Yes, 62! My daughter was close to Mom, and she looks for her number- a message that Nana knows about the important things that happen in my daughter’s life.

Of course, one could say, “If you look for something, you will find it.” And that is true. But you can’t see something that isn’t there, and the odds that the number 62 would be randomly on that check seem very low to me. Patterns are reliable, as are laws of probability. When something defies those predictable patterns and mathematical laws, we could be seeing a glimpse of a mysterious spiritual world that we can’t fully understand.

Watch this painting in real time, live taping show: “Bird of Light

See the amazing thing that happened after the show: