Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't Let the Light Go Out

We are in the season of light, linking solstice, Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year. Since Chanukah got swallowed up (literally) by Thanksgiving this year, I want to dwell on it a bit longer.

At my Jewish meditation group, we did a candle meditation in front of the fully lit Chanukah menorah. What should have been calming and inspiring agitated me and I had to leave the room. I couldn’t focus on the promise of the lights, the task of tending the flame of our inner light. All I could think of was my two boys at an elementary school holiday program years ago singing:
Don't let the light go out
It's lasted for so many years
Don't let the light go out
Let it shine through our love and our tears
Noah’s light was gone now, snuffed out by his own hand. In truth his light went out some time before as depression overtook him and wiped out all feeling or connection. 

I’m grateful to Noah’s photography professor who told us how passionate he was in her class a few months before his death, how she would look up from lecturing to see his face glowing. Somehow that class reignited him; his flame rallied. I wish I could have witnessed that last firing up of my son’s spirit.

I wish I could say to the loved ones of depressed people everywhere what I now understand better: Don’t let the light go out. Be alarmed; don’t hold back out of deference to the person’s privacy or autonomy. Intervene before he or she is too far gone to be reached. 

“We are holding Noah in the light,” Quaker friends wrote after Noah's death. I tried to hold him in the light with prayer and healing energy when he was suffering. But it’s hard right now to summon light around the thought of my child in a box in the ground.

The days will be getting longer. I think of my family and fellow survivors of suicide loss feeling bereft this holiday season. Will we be more ready as time passes to let in more light? To tend the flame both of our loved one’s memory and of our own lives?

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