One of the oldest Christmas traditions in the world is the setting out of lights, a practice that dates back thousands of years before the world began celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Originally a pagan or, as raconteur extraordinaire Les Ellenor tells me, ‘of the countryside,’ it was an important rite in which people set bonfires and, later, large yule logs to encourage the return of the sun during the darkest days of the year.
A time of precious little food, people’s very lives depended on the sun’s return and its promise of an another growing season.
While most of us have access to food, festive lights hung on buildings and trees still help to dispel the dark of long December nights.
For some, though, the dark is not so easily dispelled. The loud, seasonal chaos can worsen depression and heighten grief.
As the first Christmas without my grandson nears, there is a darkness in my soul.
Setting out decorative lights has taken on new meaning as I chose a brand new string of ever-changing coloured bulbs I believe Justin would have loved.
As I look at the lights I have hung in his honour, I am reminded that while my love for him will never diminish, the pain will soften and blur over time.
In the meantime, I am not alone in my grieving.
Two of my friends have lost sons within the past two years, two have become widows in the same time frame, another said goodbye to her father in the fall and another friend recently lost a much-loved pet.
Other friends are travelling the same dark path my family and I walked last year, one of fear and despair mingled with hope that someone we love will survive serious illness or injury.
I marvel at the kinship among those who grieve, people sharing from a deep well of understanding and compassion. No advice – sometimes a hug or even a simple heart emoji on Facebook.
At the Shuswap Hospice tree in the Mall at Piccadilly, I chose an angel and turned on a bulb in an act of remembering a little boy who offered so much love – a reminder that grief is the result of deep love and love never dies.