One of my favorite symbols in literature, and life really, is light. Light is hope, goodness, and truth. It stands for what gives us strength in times of sorrow, what shows the right path in the darkness. A lighthouse leads ships to shore in the night. For Romeo, Juliet “doth teach the torches to burn bright,” and Lucy finds a lamppost upon entering Narnia. We find meaning in candles at churches and weddings; we find comfort in the twinkling lights of a city.
We all go through times of darkness – in loss, in fear, in loneliness – and we often need an outside source of light to lead us through it. This usually comes in the form of someone’s love.
My parents both experienced loss and sorrow in childhood. Their own parents suffered from mental illness and addiction, and both marriages – followed quickly by the families – fell apart. When my mom and dad met, they shared two important things: sad family histories and a strong desire to create something new and better together. When they fell in love, they clung to each other as they faced the world. They promised to be a light of hope, goodness, and truth to each other always.
My dad works with the severely mentally ill. He has an endless love for his patients, often society’s most unlovable. He works long hours and takes little vacation time. There are always more people suffering who need him. Where does he get the strength to face the sadness of their stories and the difficulties of their personalities? How does he give these people care and dignity day after day? In large part, it’s my mom. It’s her natural goodness, her constant belief in him, her ability to see and speak the truth lovingly. It’s the happy home she’s created. She is a light to him, and he reflects that light out in the world. Her love for him helps him to shine for others.
I grew up in a family where I never doubted love. But I was lucky, and my parents made sure I understood this.
My favorite lines in all of literature come from my Catholic schoolgirl past, stored in some romantic recess of my memory: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others.”
Beyond the beautiful imagery, this passage didn’t mean much to me until I grew up. I’ve encountered these words again and as an adult – as a teacher, a newlywed, and a mother. More and more, they inspire in me a way of living.
I want my own home to be a place of light for my family – where everyone finds hope and peace, is challenged to seek truth and goodness, knows he or she is loved. I feel the constant love of my husband, who makes me believe in goodness and inspires me to be better. I picture my children going off to school some day, and I want them to be little lights for others. I believe in love because when we love well, we let each other shine, and the world needs twinkling lights.
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