A Light in the Darkness

A Light in the Darkness

From Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul

A Light in the Darkness

Shortly after our fifteen-year-old son, Adam, died, I wanted to do something as a public remembrance of him. I needed to let the outside world know that we were grieving thoroughly for the loss of all that Adam was and all that he would have been. I especially didn’t want others to forget my son. Our house is nestled in a clearing in the woods and accessible only by a very long driveway. Passersby cannot see our house from the road. And so, on a blustery November day barely a month after he died, I tied a large white bow for our Adam on a tree by the side of the road at the end of our driveway. It was a sign of love, of hope, of sorrow beyond all comprehension. Throughout the past year, as the bow became tattered and worn, I replaced it several times and have even managed to grow a few white flowers at the base of the tree beneath that white bow. Little else that I have done for my son since he died has held as much significance to me as this white bow, which has come to symbolize Adam’s life, death and our grief.

Just prior to leaving for a family gathering at my mother’s house on a Christmas day, I was feeling, as I regularly do, that I wanted to do something special for Adam. I made a luminaria with a gold angel on it; my husband, surviving son and I placed the luminaria under the white bow in the small flower garden. There, in the brilliance of a cold, clear Christmas afternoon, we lit a candle for our Adam. We added a second luminaria to burn in remembrance of all the children who have died. No one else could see the candles burning on that bright, sunlit day, but knowing they were there gave me a sense of peace. Last year, our first Christmas without Adam, the day had been unbearable; Adam’s absence had been so pervasive. This year, all afternoon while I was at my mother’s house, I thought of those luminarias burning by the side of the road for our Adam and all of the children who have died. I was uplifted and embraced by a sense of warmth I had not previously experienced.

It became apparent that those luminarias had also been of great importance to my husband and surviving son, for that evening, as we were preparing to leave my mother’s house, we each wondered aloud if the candles would still be burning. Throughout the day, our thoughts of those luminarias had allowed each of us to endure the unendurable, and it now seemed crucial that the candles would still be lit when we returned home. My husband, surviving son and I NEEDED to see that very small flicker of light glowing through the darkness.

The ride home from my mother’s house on Christmas night had always been a time of supreme bliss for me; my two boys tucked safely into the backseat of the car, each of us filled with the joy and wonder of the day. I had savored this time and counted my blessings. Last year, our first Christmas without Adam, I wept. But this year, I was focused on those candles and all they represented. We drove home in silence, each of us lost in our own private memories of Adam; each of us wishing that somehow, some way the candles still burned.

As we anxiously approached our driveway, we strained to distinguish a glimmer of light in the darkness of that Christmas night. And YES, the candles remained burning and so much brighter than we had expected! When we reached our driveway, our hearts soared as we saw that there, under the white bow in the very small flower garden by the side of the road, a third candle now burned with our two.

The third candle had been placed by two very caring people who undoubtedly understood the very profound nature of their very compassionate deed. They are bereaved parents as well, who on a cold, dark Christmas night had come to our home to secretly fill our mailbox with small, meaningful gifts. All to be discovered on another day, at another time. What they left behind was a promise of light, perhaps just a small flicker at first, but a light nonetheless, always burning through the darkness of our grief.

Nina A. Henry

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