Chaos swirls, guns pop rhythmic like popcorn in the background, acidic spirals shot towards the heavens then settle into fog, creeping along the ground. No one dreamed this would be a reality, the righteous war of two groups clamoring to be right without consideration for the horror of the children caught in the middle of the hatred. This hate is disguised as love for God or country or any other number of things but it smells of rotting flesh and leaves a wake of destruction behind. It is in this darkness children find resilience and strength in unknown places. For God does not leave them behind nor does he flee in the face of hate and destruction, in fact, he lingers and comforts the ones who are caught in the crossfire. He resides in the sunlight that breaks through a cloud and warms a face, in the sweetness of sleep that settles ever so briefly, and in the passing smile of a child remembering his Mother’s embrace. He visits the small ones personally holding each for a moment in the sweet light of love.
It was a cool evening in the small town of Hesperus, Co. My father and a couple from Denver were just home from a successful hunting trip. A deer hung in the garage. There was excited chatter and a lot of adult talk. I was turning six in two days and had little interest in the conversations buzzing around the bright, cheerful kitchen. The linoleum clicked under my Mom’s feet as she moved around the kitchen graciously hosting our guests with the poise of a tap dancer. Through the window, the clear night sharpened the light of the sparkling stars in the heavens. I was excused from the table and asked to keep an eye on my brother. I headed to my room to color. I was busy coloring the purple dress of an ice skater when a loud noise startled me. I ran to find my brother who was just coming out of my parent’s room. I told him to hide under the bed and I would go find out what had happened. I ran around to the kitchen doorway and found it thick with acidic smoke and my Dad lying on the floor. Mom told me to go sit on the couch with Ron. Within a few minutes I was sitting on the couch with my brother and Mom handed me an aspirin. The bitter taste of aspirin dissolving on my tongue punctuated by the excited fear of the adults, encapsulate the memory. I saw red lights, and a gurney, than Ron and I were whisked away to the neighbor’s house. We were put in a room with bunk beds and told to go to sleep. I could hear adults talking in hushed excited tones in the other room, as I recognized that the bear on the floor, and the deer in the garage were both dead. The horror of death settled into my mind and started it’s descent into my consciousness; a presence wrapped around me. I have always believed it was Jesus. He held me with pure love. I knew that my Dad had passed on but it was okay. He held me and I slept for a short time with the most amazing peace. My Dad did die that night. My brother had assembled and loaded my Dad’s elk rifle. Ron was four. My recollection of this love and peace in the middle of Chaos, explains why I believe that children are the recipients of the sweet light of love. I know that Jesus wraps his arms around them and holds them tight.
I never really forgot about this pure love as I grew up. I searched for it, I longed for it, and I prayed for it. I read through the Bible, faithfully attended church, taught at a Christian school, and volunteered for community projects. I found glimpses of this sweet light. I felt it sometimes when I played the piano, but mostly, I searched. I listened to people who told me that I had to accept things by faith and I think I did that, at least to the best of my ability but I longed for that peace. I longed to be loved unconditionally.
I lost my awareness of that love for I am sure that God did not stop loving me but somehow in my adult life with my family duties, work pressures, and everyday stresses, I became numb. I strived to please the people around me thinking perhaps I could earn it. Looking back I find it interesting that I found more joy and love when I was doing something that pleased no one. It just needed doing.
I have heard that it often takes a tragic event to snap us humans into a spiritual awakening. I felt that pure love when my Father died, but that was in 1968. When my brother died a few years ago, my search surged with awareness that I had up to that point never experienced. I became intimately aware of the sweet light all around me. I started being grateful for a breath of air, a window I can roll down on a warm day, my dog, a walk in the park, a warm bath, I in essence began viewing my world through the eye of a child seeing the world for the first time and I relished in the fact that I was alive to see it. I began to love Matt. 18:3: The disciples are asking Jesus who will be great in his kingdom and he calmly calls some children over to him and he says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” I believe that the kingdom of heaven can be experienced here on earth. That heaven is the pure love and joy of first time discoveries. It is in the pause of a grateful heart.
I am not discounting the grief process I experienced, it was deep and profound. Grief is difficult beyond explanation and understood only by those who have experienced it. It is the process of being shaken to the core, of dying, a place of isolation, like a seed being planted. I was buried by grief; it covered, absorbed, and infused every fiber of my being. No light, no air, and seemingly, no end to the process. Eventually, I stopped fighting and rested, slowly embracing my grief by feeling the dark, the cool, the loneliness. Ever so slowly, grief began to release its grip; I became aware of the beauty all around. I started experiencing art with the non-judgment and wonder of a child. I rediscovered the sweet light that comes to the children and the weak and holds them tight. The sweet light that waits quietly in the shadows until it is recognized by those who have forgotten.