Contemplating Christmas. It is the devotional my Bible study is following this Advent. The author, Abby Ball, describes this season’s lights as “decorating the darkness.” I read the words and, with a long sigh, put the book down. I have become accustomed to the way memories of 11 years ago relentlessly replay during the days that lead to the day Catherine died. The words, though, stirred those memories to a new understanding.
Winter’s equinox nearing, daylight was fading in the early afternoon as my brave one and I made our way home, away from the terror and devastation that had ensued less than six hours before. For years I was certain it was the middle of the night even though it was barely four o’clock. Having heard the truth of what happened, I now know I had already descended into the depths of grief’s darkness. So, perhaps it was the middle of the night, for my heart.
As family gathered around the kitchen island offering the collective pain of hearts cracked open, my father quietly pulled me away into the stillness of the front yard. Somewhere between twilight and that moment, a million stars had revealed themselves in the clear night sky. They shone as if the heavens were covered with strands of twinkle lights. He pulled me close and whispered, “Have you ever seen anything as beautiful.”
On days I long for what was — to feel the love my father offered and the joy my little one oozed — I have thought of that moment and find myself standing watch at the window, searching the sky. Without fail, a single ember from heaven will flicker in response: the moon holding court in early morning’s still dark sky, the first star of the night, or my brave one’s whisper of awe in the way the stars cover the prairie’s summer sky. Perhaps this explains the abundant twinkle lights and candles in my home during the holiday season.
I had not considered the soft glow of light for which I yearn, in this season especially, as decorum, as something that adorns the darkness and yet, it does. The stars offered from heaven are not utilitarian spotlights that shine sterile to completely eradicate the darkness. And the reality is, they shouldn’t because darkness, too, has its purpose. The stars, they adorn and soften and announce. In moments of longing, where sadness swoops, tears pool, and heartache and longing yearn, where days are grey and night arrives early, their soft glow offers hope and a way.
You can find Jennifer Hubbard’s writings at Aleteia here.