“You are the light of the world.” A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matt 5:14-16
When guests visit my home, they might notice a brightly-lit Christmas village house on display next to my kitchen sink. Whether Easter, or Independence Day, or Labor Day, the porcelain home occupies that space all year, not just during the Christmas season. It’s a permanent fixture that purposely shines in honor of my sister Barbara who passed away so many years ago.
My sister said she was ready to die but she didn’t want to. “God, just let me make it through this Christmas season,” she requested.
The night of Christmas Eve, I watched my brother-in-law carry his beloved wife down the hardwood steps of their floral-wallpapered stairway. Family photos lined one side of the staircase wall – a photo journal of their life, marriage, and three young children. They dreamed, envisioned, and built their colonial style home together. A tall oak hutch with glass paneled doors anchored a corner of the living room behind the sofa. Perched atop the hutch was a small blue lamp with a checked shade. The bulb always burned. Barb never turned it off and I never thought to ask why.
Cradled in her husband’s arms, he carefully placed my sister’s frail body onto the couch. In the soft glow of that blue lamp overhead, I saw a tear fall from her eye. “I don’t want to leave you,” she said to her husband as she looked around the living room. How she managed to finish her month-long holiday decorating ritual in her condition, I’m not quite sure. But, the halls were decked and any outsider would not have guessed her two sons and one daughter would celebrate a final Christmas with their mother.
I remembered happier, more carefree times. Barbara was my oldest sister by sixteen years, and she delivered her first child when I was only 9 years old. I spent summer breaks with her growing family. We gardened, we took walks, and we played in the sprinkler on hot, sunny afternoons. I did not have a care in the world during summer vacations with my sister. I was growing up alongside her children, and she was raising me too.
As I became a teenager, and then an independent young woman tackling adult issues, I was living the consequences of my poor choices. Through it all, Barb was near. She was a light in my dark world – my confidante and my counselor. She listened and never judged.
Unburdened, she enjoyed life with a constant smile, and with a joyful, genuine laugh. Barb displayed kindness and grace, serving others before herself. She created a loving and peaceful home for her family. With her constant presence and influence, I never dreamed I’d live a life without her.
For two years she battled, but life began to slowly slip away from my sister. She became certain she would not see her children grow, she would not become a grandmother, nor would she travel in retirement with her husband. Barb worried about the future of her young children growing up without their mother.
She wrote goodbye letters to family members, not Christmas cards. She gave away personal belongings rather than wrapped gifts. Her only wish to live through one more Christmas with her family was granted, and on the third day of January she took her last breath. The light of my dark world was gone and the lamp in her living room was turned off.
Barbara’s physical body is gone from this earthly life, but her presence lives on. She said she didn’t want to die yet, and she hasn’t – her heart for family and home – is a legacy I embrace, a torch I carry on. I desire to be the light of my home, as Barb was in hers, passing along a peaceful and loving atmosphere for family, friends and guests.
My Christmas village lamp burns continually as a symbol and reminder in honor of Barb. I never turn it off and no one has ever asked me why.
The authors of Write Integrity Press and Pix-N-Pens Publishing, invite you to join us tonight, December 7, 2014, between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. for our Facebook Party. We’ll have food (virtual, of course), fun, and party favors (not virtual–you have to join us to see). Stop in. We’d love to say hello to our old friends and get to know some new ones.