When glioblastoma thrust me close to death I was intimately aware of the Divine. She was readily within reach; I touched the corner of Her cloak. Brain cancer had transported me to a “thin place”. 

A thin place is a space (or moment) where the gap between the natural world and the transcendent becomes whisper fine, where the two worlds (nearly) touch. A space where the mystical becomes palpable and the bliss of the infinite is encountered.

Inconsolable Longings

Susan Cain in her book Bittersweet explains through the works of C.S. Lewis and Sufi teacher Dr. llewellyn Vaughan-Lee that we all have inconsolable longings for the divine; a desire to go “home”. I know exactly what the author is saying. Because “home” is not only where we’re from and how that’s shaped us into who we’ve become. Home is also who we were before the world told us who we were supposed to be. Home is the diamond castle of the soul (as I reflected on in my We Must Get Home blogpost); our spiritual essence we long to become one with.  

Susan Cain continues by expressing her “bittersweet” belief that this divinity we all long for can be just as much part of an atheist’s world as it can a believer’s. It is present just as much in the ecstasy of musical immersion at your favorite concert, or in the magic of falling in love that reaches spaces in your soul you previously didn’t know existed, or kissing your young child who coos their love to you. 

Furthermore, Cain describes, these moments are transient. The concert finishes, falling in love shifts to routines of relationship (or divorce), children grow up and hurtle insults your way. 

So too, thin place moments are transient leaving us longing for more.



As my cancer journey faded into the background, no longer center stage I have found myself longing for more moments of intimate divinity. I long to re-create those simple, visceral, transcendentally blissful times that had punctuated the trauma. 

It was in those moments that I knew, in my heart and in my head, the meaning of life. It was love. Gutsy, messy, intimate love. That was what my soul longed for. It was the holy grail, the pearl, the secret of a satisfying life. Love. Simple. Complicated. Love. And this knowing made my heart sing. 

But, as the acuteness of illness transitioned to the wilderness aftermath and then, slowly, to remission and the emergence of a “new normal” my memory of the thin place moments grew fuzzy.

How can I so easily forget? I berated myself.

I wanted the thin moments back (of course without the traumatic uncertainty of acute brain cancer). Was I flawed to not be able to maintain my spiritual mountain top moments of epiphany?

Ages and Stages

My answer came when I read fellow stage four cancer survivor, Kate Bowler’s, poignant and funny book of reflections, Good Enough. Reflection twenty-two got me. Bowler describes a study where people of different age groups are asked how they want to spend their time. “Researchers found the trajectory went like this: little kids wanted to spend time with their families, teenagers wanted to spend time with their friends, and by the time you asked the guy in his thirties, he wanted to meet Bono, There are moments of our lives that fuel ambition and expansion and more, more, more. We can see a long future. But then the closer people grew to death, the more they wanted to spend time with their closest friends and family again.” Bowler continues, “When we have more past than future, our desires may change to love not simply what might be, but to love what already is.”

Bowler’s words made me realize that my tangible spiritual “knowing” during acute cancer was not “better” than my reclaimed ambition which seemed to separate me from “thin moments”. These experiences were simply resultant of the length of future I envisioned for myself. These remission moments of re-emerging expansion are natural.

The Time Traveler

I’ve become a time-traveler of sorts: living in expansion (pre-cancer), shrinking back like an eighty year old in a thirty-five year old’s body (acute cancer) and with remission expanding again. 

However, I’m left wondering how can I bring end of life, thin moment wisdom back (like a time traveler) into expansive moments? The idea feels like swimming upstream, but an answer comes to me.

What I can do is live with a bittersweet, intentional awareness that this renewed crescendo of adventurous life is impermanent.  I can witness and share that life’s impermanence is not a curse; it is just life, full of pain and joy, tears and laughter. And so much wabi sabi beauty. 

I can remember that there will be an incredibly sublime thin place treasure at the end of this journey.
I can hug my kids and kiss my husband.
I can love wholeheartedly. Intentionally.
Until the very end
And when the bell tolls for me, I can die well because I know that I have loved well.

But until then,



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I “found” this blogpost that I wrote over a year ago hanging out at the end of my memoir, looking for a place to land. I’d plunked it in as an epilogue, but that just didn’t fit. With fresh eyes I looked at the epilogue and laughed at myself, Cheryl that’s a blogpost not an epilogue! (The first draft of my memoir is full of many interesting tidbits that don’t belong!)  So here you go 🙂