Lights that Shine from Afar

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I watched the movie “The Impossible” recently.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s a film based on the true story of a family vacationing on the beaches of Thailand, when they were literally swept up and away in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The story and movie scenes are powerfully violent and graphic, and sometimes difficult to watch. But there was one especially poignant scene that really clicked with me.

One of the family’s three sons is sitting on a roof top gazing up at the stars on a clear and peaceful night after the terrible event. A kindly elderly lady comes up and sits with him to offer comfort and company. During their conversation he tells her that he liked to star-gaze with his mom.  He doesn’t know where she is at this point of the story and he is missing her terribly.  Joining in the young boy’s grief, the woman points out that the stars that they are watching are so far away that even though the light is shining brightly right there in the sky, the star itself could have burned out many, many years ago.  Because of the star’s bright light and the vast distance, the light is still traveling through space, and they can still see the star’s light.  I think she was trying to prepare the young child for the possibility that he may never find his mother; even so, she was letting him know that her light would continue to shine in his heart.  It made me think about the people who have passed on, the stars in my life.

My father was one of my brightest lights.  He passed away nearly 13 years ago, but I still feel his presence and hear his voice, nearly every day.  He comes to me in dreams. Sometimes we’re working away at the plant we once owned, trying to get the orders out; or other times we’re playing a round of golf together, or maybe watching a baseball game on TV.  I hear his words of encouragement when I attempt something new, regardless of whether I succeed or fail. He was the original millennial father …in his eyes we always came in first place in whatever activity or sport we played. When I sit down in my chair to read, I see him in my mind’s eye quietly sitting in his den with his breviary, bible, or sports page …immersed in the reading; his reading glasses sliding down over his turned up nose.  Lately, I’ve seen him when I pass by a mirror in a quick glance.  I see the faint wrinkles around the eyes, his round face, and his mischievous smile. I see him in my two brothers, in looks and manners; in their faith, how they love their families and go about their work.  I even see him in my two sons, in their loves and passions. As far as I can tell, his light is still shining brightly, even from afar.

I have other lights shining from afar as well.  I notice my grandpa’s gentle hands when I look down at my hands while I’m holding my grandson Cooper.  I remember his hands from him lifting me up to the front counter of his grocery store where we sat for hours together drinking pops on hot summer days. I hear my grandmother’s laugh when I see kids with a new puppy.  I remember her surprising us with a puppy, on a few occasions, because boy’s just need a dog, regardless of whether my mom thought it was such a good idea or not.  I hear echoes of laughter from stories and jokes from aunts and uncles when our family gathers for holidays, birthdays and special meals.  Those folks were a crazy mixture, like most families are I suppose.  They were Mercedes Benzes and Harley Davidson’s; they were farm homes and vacation homes; they were horse shoes in the backyard, and tennis at the country club. Somehow all those elements came together and made me the unique jigsaw puzzle personality that I am today, for better or for worse…

Now, I see that being passed on again. I especially feel all those lights burning within me, when I hold, and look down at Cooper. I think of all those people, all those lights in my life who once looked down on me with special love and affection.  All those stars, in all different shapes and sizes, whose lives have long since faded, but are still sending twinkling lights to me through the ages; I  know I am blessed to have my own wonderful, personal light show, an entire galaxy of them. And best of all, I see the light being passed along to another generation.

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