Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter's Light

When the year’s shadows are heaviest, when nights become long and cold, when feelings of self-doubt, despair, and death draw near, we light candles to push away the darkness that surrounds us.

The light of stars and the flames of candles remind us of people we love, dreams we’ve followed, and the guidance of wise teachers. They call us to reclaim what stirs our passions, what brings us energy and meaning. They challenge us to care for those among us for whom the light has grown dim.

The dancing of the flames draws us out of our normal preoccupations and worries to focus on just this moment.

We set aside the burdens of life and let our hearts fill with light and fill with compassion for others, because the light has come for all. This year, each night for a week, I will light another candle and let what has been hidden in my heart rise.

People find renewal of their faith in this season. Many use lights in their rituals of remembrance and rededication, like Christian candlelight services, Jewish Hanukkah, Hindu Diwali, and the African American celebration of community in Kwanzaa.

We celebrate the message hidden underneath the decorations, that despite what has happened this last year — bad jobs, lost homes, struggles with health, and loved ones who died — all hope is not gone because we believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that glad tidings will come that we do not expect, do not yet see, and cannot predict.

We return to the ancient traditions to find a fresh breath of spirit.

We will gather with others who understand suffering and endurance, who understand grief, who understand the devastation of heart, who feel the bone-weariness of soul. People will bring food and share their lives with each other, and they will find new support in their struggles.

Some will find renewal in the wilderness surrounded by mountains and forests. They will feel part of something much larger than their individual lives, and will stand in humble awe of nature’s majesty. Although grief may have ripped their lives apart, here in the transcendence of nature, they know that one day they will be okay.

The Solstice signals the turning of winter and the movement of the natural world. The long hours of darkness encourage us to slow our rush to the meandering pace of the creeks. We feel the Presence of life around us as we watch the light move over the land, and we reclaim the connection between our lives and the Spirit of creation.

The light does not do away with the darkness, but completes it, just as grief completes life’s understanding of love.

The Sierra peaks in Yosemite give little hint that they have noticed the sun’s subtle shift back towards the Northern Hemisphere, but Half Dome and El Capitan hold the day’s light a bit longer.

Down in the valley, along the Merced River as it winds through the snowy meadows in its winter clothing, John Muir’s favorite bird, the ouzel, as it swims under the water, bounces in the rapids, and sings its song of joy to the day’s darkness.

This week, may you find your sacred space where your heart feels renewed and your spirit light.


  1. Thank you, Mark. I, too, hold light as precious and healing. So grateful to have the longest night of the year out of the way now. Wishing you light in the new year.

    1. You're welcome, Robin. Now we begin the movement back toward light, even though darkness continues to fill much of our days.