When death comes, we leave the world of light behind and enter a realm of shadows.
Colors mute to gray. Sounds are all in the distance. Even if it’s sunny and in the eighties, the air feels cold and we wear a jacket. Food tastes like cardboard, so we don’t eat. Everything we pick up is rough to the touch, so we stay home. Our world shifts into slow gear.
When death hits, the world becomes a noisy commuter train with flashing lights, clacking rails, and packed with people chatting too loudly. Then we’re standing alone on the platform after midnight in an empty station at the end of the line. The darkness and silence are a relief because the world has become too loud and too bright. Finally, we can breathe.
At first nothing seems to be here. Nothing is moving. But as our eyes adjust to the darkness, the stars begin to emerge. Their stillness brings presence to the long, empty hours. Each star seems alone, separated by light years, but as we watch we begin to see the thin, gossamer threads that connect each star to the others in its constellation.
Tonight, as on every night, hundreds of new people are getting off trains in dark stations around the world, feeling alone as they watch the stars. We sense others who are grieving around us, even though we don’t know their names or where they live.
Someone leans against a brick wall, waiting for the cab that will take him away from despair over his friend’s death.
Someone lies in bed unable to sleep. She cannot touch the empty space beside her. The loss of his physical body is too stark, and she refuses to pretend that his love never was.
Someone in his backyard watches for meteors, remembering when he used to watch with his wife, waiting for some sign to tell him it’s okay to let go and move on.
Someone on a bus goes home after the closing shift, watching the streetlights flash by and seeing the dark houses where people are asleep with their families, wondering if she will ever be a mother, if she will ever risk trying to give birth again.
Someone can’t leave the loneliness of the beach after the sun goes down, a beach he used to walk with his father. The sounds of the restless ocean wash in, bringing the only presence he can feel, the only thing that calms his mind.
It takes courage to stand and face your grief. Yet we are members of a community that gathers in the darkness. In the bonds that hold us together, we find strength and light.