Winter solstice awaits eagerly in the wings while I slip on my teen-aged son’s outgrown winter boots that pinch my heels and take to the snow-covered road.
Dusk settles over the white fields enveloping all that the eye can see in muted tones. Black, grey, white and brown. I step carefully as traffic has increased on this little side road due to the transportation closures of last week, a response to the two days of freak flooding our area experienced. Now a dusting of white covers everything, as if to convince the passer-bys that Christmas is truly on her way. I cling to the shoulder of the road hoping to not lose my foothold and find myself by some unplanned error in the ditch.
My mind is full tonight, as always. It’s Christmas time. But instead of looking expectantly forward to the lights, sounds and flavours of a magical holiday, preparing for the holidays: I have spent days visiting my Dad at the hospital on post-surgical, Unit 2 and now at his new spot, on the adjacent Unit 3. His room, equipped with a lift that assists him in getting from bed to chair and bed to wheelchair when his legs are not cooperating.
Two weeks tomorrow, Dad was home, living his life.
Not that things then were perfect- far from it. Dad has Parkinson’s and the effects of the condition have gradually stolen from him a way of life. Taken from him the ability to be independent. Taking first his ministry and ability to provide financially for his family, and then attacking his health and well-being aggressively in his early fifties .
I am not oblivious to the fact that the very decade Dad possibly began experiencing initial symptoms is the one I am living out right now. Parkinson’s has taken much: stolen from Dad the ability to drive and carry out tasks independently. And now, as he struggles to walk, finding even the few steps he does take unassisted to be a challenge, we his family watch helplessly from the sidelines. He had not even been able to stand without two nurses on either side of him all week although the last few days have seen him able to take a limited number of steps. Yes, life has changed. For Dad and for all of us. And while it wasn’t perfect before hospital admission- it was being lived by him as the new normal.
We ask ourselves, why? Why this? Why now? Why all this heartache at Christmas?
Our family has had its share of tragedy, as have most families that we know well and love. Just the other day, I met a friend in the store after leaving the hospital from where I had spent time with Dad, and I conveyed to her the sadness I feel at the reality of people I love aging and getting older. She reeled off the stats on her aging parents and in-laws. Heart conditions, lung conditions. And the list went on.
And then this news. Just the other day, a friend stopped me to share the tragic news that a close family member of hers had lost their full-term baby due only a few short days ago to an unknown cause.
We ask- we cry out: WHY? Why all this hurt, all this sadness?
It is easy to feel crushed under the weight of all this oppression. Easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Easy to give up and let go of all that holds us together.
I make my way down the slope of the road toward my favorite little inlet where the fish jump gracefully in the summer, the bulrushes their gentle home. The waterway has widened to a swell due to last week’s torrential rains; in the evening hour, this little corner of the world looks like a black-and-white photo. I watch as two blue herons spread their wide wings and lift to the sky in graceful motion.
It is serenely beautiful.
The land fading into sky washed in varying tones of grey, save for the sliver of fading pink that still pools light into the horizon. This sunset tonight is breathtaking, a gorgeous wash of pastel light, yet it seems incongruent alongside the picture taken from where I stand down below, dismal at this hour of the day. But in looking up to that glorious pink sky, I am left spellbound and breathless, wishing only for my camera to capture what would have been a perfect shot. I settle for a memory instead, savoring the moment.
This radiant light. It is the promise of a dying day- that there will come another. Time makes sure of that. There is always light to be found within darkness. Light always finds a way to penetrate the darkness.
Slipping through cracks in walls, through slats in doors.
Bursting through hallways, trickling down corridors.
Meeting me on the road where I now look for it. This light, it is my constant comfort and hope. For light always finds a way to shine, always finds a way to win over the darkness.
“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5, NIV)
It was just four short days ago that I was traveling home from Charlottetown in a thick fog. I had pulled into Summerside for a coffee as my eyes were trying desperately to shut, so weary I was after a long day. I was getting ready to head back on the road when I realized how challenging my ride home was about to be. Everywhere my eyes landed there was a haze. As I pulled up to a stop light, I noticed that directly in front of me was a small aluminum trailer attached to a truck. As I turned out onto the highway, I could hardly see a thing to my right or my left, but I thankfully could always see the four red lights shining out toward me on that trailer. I watched those four red lights as if they were a beacon. And for mile after mile after mile, those red lights were my focal point on which I intently set my sites. When I lost track of the lights, I lost track of the road. When I was in view of the lights, I was safely where I needed to be.
Those lights led me home.
In the dying light of day, Light leads forward into another morn, come what may. For there is always light and light brings hope. Hope spills recklessly like a beam of brilliant light over a darkened world, reigning eternal. Showing us the way, leading us home.
To this we say: let the Light shine on