Those of you who know my know that I love the local restaurant One World. It’s one of the first places I fell in love with after moving to Peoria. It’s one of the reasons I love living where I do, because it’s now in my neighborhood. I can, on a whim, walk down to One World and bask in the ambience, feeling all artistic and such. And, when the weather is warmer, I’ve done exactly that. I’ve met with friends at One World. Crystal and I have spent date nights at One World. We’ve had our business meetings there, too, planning household needs while eating hummus or salsa. Mmm….
Much of the delight of One World comes from the intricate yet offbeat wall paintings. Every flat surface seems covered with a mural of some sort. Some of the tables share the artwork. I’ve been going to One World for ten years, and the artwork still fascinates me. Much of it is odd trompe l’oeil, especially on the tables. One has a portal opening into the sky. Another has four compartments painted on it, filled with apples, and lifelike sugar packets painted on its surface. I sat at this table on Wednesday and found myself trying to brush those sugar packets away, constantly forgetting that they weren’t really there.
The artist who painted these delightful images is named Vin Luong. I’ve never met him, but he’s a friend of a friend. He doesn’t know it, but his work has delighted me for a decade.
On Thursday, Vin passed into glory. He was 46. It was sudden. Eight weeks of illness, from which he and his wife expected him to recover by summer. Instead, he is gone.
I have a lot of hangups. Just ask my wife, and she’ll tell you. I’m emotionally needy, and I’m willing to admit it. The recent issue for me has been circling around my artistic production. Namely, there hasn’t been all that much, and this bothers me deeply. If I’m not creating, I feel like I’m dying. But the passing of Vin has shaken this assumption.
I don’t know Vin, so I’m projecting here. But, if he had been given the chance to remain until summer before dying, would he have spent his last days on his art? Or would he have spent them on his wife?
Perhaps a better question: if I knew that I had only months to live, should I spend that time on my art? Or on my family and friends?
What value is my art, if I sacrifice my relationships to achieve it?
My art will not survive me. Though I die, yet I will live again. My art will pass away and be dust, but I will remain forever. And those that I love will remain forever as well. So, if my art, which is temporary, does not help others, who are not, it is valueless.
And yet, I do not want to devalue art. Vin’s art has filled my life with joy, and one day I will be able to tell him that to his face. I hope that my art is also of value to the people that it touches, even those that are past my direct reach.
And so, Vin, my brother, through your life and your death, you have taught me how to live and die. You didn’t even know that you were touching me, but I’ll tell you some day. I have a feeling that you’ll appreciate it. And, by the way, your art was amazing.
And for those left behind, I offer a prayer:
Lord of the quick and dead,
Who promises a resurrection to everlasting life for all who love You,
Comfort the friends and family of Vin Luong,
That they may trust in the beautiful salvation that You have wrought for all Your beloved,
Who will reign with You forever, the Living One, forever blessed.