Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Light a Candle

Image courtesy of freefoto.com.

Bad things happen to good people. You don't have to look very far these days to know this. This past weekend, in particular, was a reminder of that truth. The world watched as coverage of the earthquake, the tsunami and, now, the nuclear disasters in Japan, unfolded. Tucked in my warm house, with all my chicks in the nest, plentiful clean water, too much food and not a care in the world about how I'd make it through the next days, I watched, too.

I watched much of it while browsing the Internet, checking my Facebook account and posting on this very blog. I started Googling my memories of the tsunami in Thailand and Sri Lanka, thinking I remembered hearing Nate Berkus, of Oprah Winfrey Show fame, lost his partner in that disaster. My memory served me right. I was wrong, though, in thinking it happened a couple of years ago. It actually took place in 2004. How quickly we forget when our own lives aren't affected.

I was blessed to stumble upon something Nate Berkus actually wrote in the year after the loss of his partner. While all of it was well-written and enlightening, a couple of lines really struck me. Though he didn't feel he'd ever move on from his grief, a good friend of his gave him a basket of beautiful candles for his birthday and told him, "You can light a candle or curse the darkness." In his words, "We lit the candles."

This amazing quote came in handy for me on Saturday when I comforted a wonderful friend after the unexpected and tragic loss of one of her relatives.

We've all been there. In the fresh face of disaster, of that terrible thing you can't believe happened or is happening, it's hard to imagine that life will go on. There's no tomorrow, next week, next year. It's all about getting through this hour and the next hour and the one after that.

As bystanders, it's hard to know what to do to help. We can pray and donate money to aid those in Japan, we can lend a shoulder and an ear to friends and family suffering their own catastrophes here at home. And we can trust our guts, be quiet and listen to know just what is needed and what might help.

I once had a close relative in prison to whom I wrote letters on a weekly or biweekly basis. How do you start a letter to someone in prison? "How are you?" is kind of a dumb question. What I learned worked, at least in our case, was "How are you today?" Because, to someone in crisis, it's actually a very tender and thoughtful question. It acknowledges and allows for the roller coaster lows and highs we all experience, but especially in times of trouble.

And so, for Japan and for dear friends mourning one of their own, tonight, I light a candle. I invite you to do the same.

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