My late husband Leighton and I once had a delightful conversation with a four year old little boy about light – we talked about moonlight, sunlight, and starlight, lamp light and candle light, and several other imaginary and real incarnations of light that popped into his awakening mind. When we asked him why light is so important, with the wisdom of a small child he answered in what could only be described as a “eureka” moment, “because light lets you see things!”
And so it is when we grieve the death of one we love – light lets us see the way through our grief, even as we live for a while in the darkness of our pain and sorrow. We’re assured that the light of God's mercy and grace shines into the darkness of our grief, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2 NRSV).
Several years ago on a trip to New York, I landed at Newark Airport in New Jersey. As many of you know, from there the quickest way into the city is through the Holland Tunnel, which goes under the Hudson River directly into lower Manhattan. I was in New York on 9/11 and, to be quite honest, I was rather unsettled – fearful, really - about traveling below ground, under water because the trauma of that horrible day is forever etched in my heart and soul. When we drove down the gradual incline into the tunnel, I took a breath and knew there was no turning back.
In the middle of the tunnel, I saw a light flashing on top of a maintenance truck a short distance ahead. My mind automatically raced through several worst-case scenarios. Traffic slowed then ground to a halt. And then something really rather ordinary happened - the driver of the truck hopped out and quickly changed places with a colleague at the mid-way monitoring station. Apparently, it was lunchtime. The exchange took only about five seconds. We began to move forward again and gradually ascended. And what I saw at the end of the tunnel was the welcome sight of light, glorious light in all its golden glow of hope.
Later as I thought about the experience, I realized that light had been there all along - over, above, and outside the tunnel. Yet I'd spent those moments of travel from a suburb into a city in a place of relative darkness, as we do on our journey through grief. And with the death of our loved one we descend for a while into a dark place with no turning back, even as we encounter obstacles and stops along the way. But when we emerge from the tunnel of our grief, light lets us see things – the depth of our faith, the strength of our spirit, the immeasurable gifts of God’s faithfulness to us, especially as we grieve.
God’s eternal, steadfast love guides our way through the darkness of our grief toward the light of new life, toward peace, hope, and joy, “…for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended” (Isaiah 60:20 NRSV).
For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
Psalm 56:13 NIV
Keep me this day, O God, in the radiance of your light. Amen.