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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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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 back the darkness that surrounds us.

The light of stars, the bonfires, the flames of candles remind us of people we’ve loved, dreams we’ve followed over the years, 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 flickering of the flames tonight draws us out of our normal preoccupations to focus on this moment.

We set aside the burdens of life and let our hearts fill with light and compassion for others, because when the light comes, it comes for all. Each night for a week, I will light another candle and let what is hidden in my heart rise.

People find renewal of their faith in this season. Many of us use lights in our 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 holiday decorations that despite the trauma of what has happened this year — bad jobs, no jobs, lost homes, struggles with health, the death of loved ones — hope is not completely gone because, despite all the evidence to the contrary, glad tidings will come that we do not expect.

We return to the forms of 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. We will gather and bring food. We will share our lives with each other and find encouragement.

Many will find renewal outdoors, and some in the wilderness surrounded by mountains and forests. We will feel part of something greater than our individual lives, and stand in awe of nature’s majesty rising up around us. Although grief may have pulled our lives apart, with the transcendence of nature, the feeling comes that we will one day be okay.

The Winter Solstice signals the turning of winter back toward spring. In the movement of the natural world, the long hours of darkness encourage us to slow our rushing around to move at the meandering pace of the creeks. We feel the Presence of life around us as we watch the light drift over the dark trees, and reclaim the connection between our lives and the Spirit of creation.

The darkness does not do away with the light, but completes it, just as grief completes our 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 holds the day’s light a bit longer.

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

May you find a place this holiday season where the sacredness of your heart is rekindled and your spirit once again sees light.