By Bob Perks
"She went gently into the light," he said.
The young child slumped over into his arms and wept. How does one explain death to a child? I have heard many explanations. Some I thought made sense and others so simple I thought even a child wouldn’t believe it.
But then there was "the light bulb."
I have no idea how this came about, but my life has always been one surprise after another. I am happy to say that most of them were good. It’s not a favorite topic of mine but, one I find fascinating and most times I learn something wonderful in discussing it.
We were talking about life and yes, of course, death. I’ve heard so many stories and told a few of my own, but this one…this one I treasure. In the group of strangers thrown together by chance or hand chosen on purpose, we exchanged ideas, laughed about mistakes we’ve made and bragged a bit about the good things we’ve accomplished.
As it often does, the mere mention of death brought the mood of the conversation to a dismal halt. It was a man who appeared to be in his late sixties who suddenly blurted it out.
"I had to tell my young daughter that her mother died," he said.
Those gathered there were still discussing work and marriage when a hush came over the group.
Like a rolling silence, thunder in reverse, the conversations came to a halt.
"I’m sorry," he said. "I didn’t mean for you to stop talking."
He had everyone’s attention without really trying.
Then someone softly said, "How did you do it?"
The man slowly scanned the room perhaps looking for one sympathetic face he could speak to.
I don’t know that pain, but he chose me.
"I walked down the long corridor of the hospital. I could see her standing there at the end waiting for me. Her smile told me that she was totally unaware of the loss," he said.
"Upon my approach, she must have known, I watched her smile melt on her face. She didn’t ask. I just looked at her and said, "She went gently into the light," he said in a near whisper.
No one said a word.
"What happened?" I asked.
"The young child slumped over into my arms and wept."
The silence in the room was almost disturbing. It was that near deafening lack of sound that grabs one’s attention faster than thunder.
"She did the most remarkable thing," he went on to explain.
"Sometime during the week that followed I visited her room. Knowing she was still downstairs, I wanted see if there were any obvious signs of concern. She had asked for a few pictures of her mom and I wanted to see what she did with them."
With a gentle smile on his face he said, "The room was dark. I reached over to turn on the small lamp next to her bed and discovered something marvelous," he said.
"At first I didn’t understand. But with a click of the light I could see it more clearly."
We all stood motionless waiting for him to go on. He took his time as he stumbled over the memories still fresh in his mind as though it were just yesterday.
"She came in behind me suddenly. It startled me. I didn’t know if she wanted me to find this," he said.
"Daddy. You were right," she said to me. Then pointing to the ceiling I discovered this treasure. She had somehow written the word "Mom" on the very top of the light bulb. From it’s dark, cracked, appearance it may have been nail polish.
All week she had asked me to leave the light on each night. I guessed she was afraid. But her face beamed with a beautiful smile."
Now choking on his words to us he said, "She said Daddy, you were right. There she is." She held her hand just above the lamp faintly she could see the word "Mom" on it.
"She went gently into the light," she said to me. We cried happy tears," he said.
There wasn’t a dry eye in this circle of strangers.
"It has been over 30 years since my wife’s passing. If you are wondering, yes, I still have that lamp. Whenever my daughter comes to visit me, I bring the lamp into the room and turn on the light. Although faded, you can still see… "She went gently into the light"
"I believe in You!"
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