The Light Without

I wrote this in my head driving home from a funeral yesterday. Everyone else was asleep so my thoughts were all mine. A rarity.

Barney, you are our bright light today, tomorrow and always.

A traditional Irish funeral blessing says:

“May the blessings of light be upon you, Light without and light within.”

And we believe that death sends our spirit spiraling toward that light. The sheer brilliance of the afterlife untethering us from our earthly connections; bright, beautiful and promising.

Yet, for those remaining in the here and now, this exquisite journey initially manifests itself in pain and an immense sense of loss.

It is akin to being thrust into a room you frequented every day, having the lights turned off, the shades drawn and being held prisoner there after the door slams shut.

The grief closes you off from the world on the other side of that door. You want to believe there will be light again, but the cloak of darkness makes it impossible to imagine.

Having lost true north on your internal compass, you stand motionless, your heartbeat a cymbal crashing through your subconscious. A piercing reminder that the heart of the departed will never beat again with yours.

In the inky blackness, even the familiar seems strange and unwelcome. Senses are heightened as doing becomes secondary to feeling.

The fear of the unknown is a tidal wave assaulting you until you are smothered by it. Eyes closed, you attempt to envision your surroundings as they were even just the day before; bolstering strength through memory.

But the darkness is a formidable foe.

It has no intention of relenting. It maintains a foothold until you take it on through sheer will.

The first steps are faltering with obstacles at every turn; the hurting fresh each time you stumble. Over time, you gain the confidence to move, only to have it dashed again and the process begin anew.

You cry out in utter desperation. Cursing fate, God and bleakness of it all; sure that the sun will never again light your path.

Then slowly and subtly your eyes adjust to the darkness; softening the edges of the room. Your world will lose familiarity as the shadows create a new normal. It is not comfortable or even recognizable, but it is yours.

Yours because much like the natural evolution of each day, the darkness begets light. The radiance of the spirit was there all along; patiently awaiting your summons. Once it appears, it is your faithful companion; particularly in the hours you feel most alone.

The light within is not possible unless you believe there is light without.

Knowing that living without someone we cherished does not entail a lifetime sentence to darkness. Confident that the love and memories will not be extinguished through death; rather they will illuminate this unfamiliar road more with each passing day.

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About Maureen Stiles

Maureen is the author of the blog Magnificence in the Mundane. You can read her monthly column at The Town Courier.


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