Stumbling Toward the Light

"We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly" -- Madeleine L'Engle

A collection of thoughts and messages I wrote after my daughter died May 17, 2000. Primarily this blog is concerned with grief, bereavement, the death of a child, hope, courage and a tough faith journey.

Location: Kansas, United States

Husband, father of four, friend, dog owner, owned by a cat, Episcopalian, last liberal Republican left in the U.S.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

This Little Light of Mine

[ORIGINALLY WRITTEN December 22, 2002, for the DayByDay email group]

Dear Friends,

"This little light of mine
I'm gonna make it shine
This little light of mine
I'm gonna make it shine
Let it shine, make it shine, make it shine."

This is one of the hardest songs for me to listen to. Rachel learned it at school and liked to sing it. It's funny that I like to describe her as a "star" and this song reflects that thought... letting light shine forth.

We've just passed the winter solstice. The days are beginning to lengthen. Most religions, especially those originating in the Northern Hemisphere, have holy days or festivals at this time of year celebrating light. Bonfires are lit. Lights decorate buildings. Processions wind their way through towns and cities with people holding candles and torches. Humans celebrate the return of light into the world.

We have a three foot high candle decoration up about 20 feet in our sycamore tree in our front yard... our light in the darkness. We got it this year to replace Rachel's reindeer light decoration which had finally broken after many Decembers of service. We've been plugging in the candle light decoration each evening and it shines out over our street and into the world.

This past week has been a hard one for Diana and me. We'd made it through our first two Christmases after Rachel's death rather well. We planned "events" to memoralize her which the older kids wanted to participate in. I went out each Christmas and bought a stone rabbit statue for our yard (Rachel's favorite animal). We used ritual and symbols to remind ourselves that, though she was gone, she was still an integral part of us.

But we didn't have anything like that ready this year. We didn't *do* anything. We didn't know what to do! I didn't see any stone rabbits I liked. We couldn't think of anything special to do at the cemetery other than change the silk flowers. The loss had truely hit, strangely three Christmasses later. We got really down. Was she fading from our lives? What a dark place to be.

Last night I was going to bed. It was late. I had on a Christmas CD I espcially like and was sitting in the dark listening to it.... all the lights out. On this CD is a beautiful version of "This Litgle Light of Mine." I almost always skip it though... don't want to listen to it. As I was sitting there in the dark I realized that there was a bright light shining in through the front window. I went to the window, opening the blinds and it dawned on me that I hadn't gone out and unplugged Rachel's candle decoration. It was 1 a.m., cold as blue blazes and I was in no mood to go out and unplug anything. I stood there glaring at that light up in the sycamore tree.

I'd forgotten the CD... and just then I heard a clear baritone voice begin to sing....

"This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

All through the night
I'm gonna let it shine
All through the night
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine....

I got down on the floor in front of the CD player, which sits in front of the front window... and listened... and once again... I "got it." We *did* have something this year. It had been sitting up in a tree looking down on us every dark night.

There is a light shining down on us, leading us on. I've written before that my faith teaches me to imitate the actions of my God as he has revealed them to me. I believe that other lives around me also reflect my God as examples of goodness, courage, love. These are my guides... lights that lead me through a dark journey.

My child is a light. I will sing of Light this Christmas Eve Night and remember a light over a stable, a light over our front yard.. and the light who leads me home, skipping along a nature trail, putting sticks and rocks into her pockets, pausing to watch a cardinal flying overhead, stopping in awe to see how the setting sun turns the clouds pink and purple.

Our wish and prayer for you all at this holy time of the year is the memory of your Lights, your Stars... burning through the black pain that also comes with what sometimes seems like a year-long dark winter... and a little peace that come with that light.

Bill and Diana Sowers


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