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All the Light We Cannot See

Posted by on February 6, 2016

It’s been a bit dark in this little corner of the universe. It’s the bleak midwinter, when the Minnesota days are persistently brief and too often gray. The trees are skeletal, barren. Occasionally a beautiful and sparkling snowfall comes to settle into lacey patterns on the branches, and cover the slushy, muddy older snow piles from previous storms. Something about the angle of the sun in February, much like in November, makes me hungry, hollow. I can’t find much to recommend these months on the particularly bitter-cold, dark-skied days.

When my aunt Linda (here known and forever preserved as the beloved CALi–for Crazy Aunt Linda–in the comments of numerous posts) died in November, the regular vacuum of the darker months seemed to turn into a bit of a black hole. I still wake up some days and just can’t make sense of it. I know she’d hate for me to be here, to stay here in sadness for so long. But how do I pull myself out, when the proverbial hand that so often hoisted me from a sinkhole–Linda herself, with her humor, her wisdom and wit–is no longer here to leave me an encouraging message?

I think I’ve said here before that I absolutely believe there is something beyond the life we live and understand with our worldly senses. I have felt the presence of departed loved ones often enough to never doubt that their energy continues, even though I can no longer see them in the form that was familiar to me. I heard a song on the radio on the way to work and was convinced Linda shuffled it onto my random playlist just then. One of my children shared a memory, or just the feeling of missing her, at the moment I was silently thinking of and missing her, too. I stumbled across an older Facebook thread, and saw multiple (and, of course, hilarious) comments she’d left me. In small ways, she was there…showing me she was still “with” me. But I am human, and selfish, and it is not enough. I want to see her. Hers was an illuminating presence, like that sparkling, new-fallen snow that brings the world into a different light. She brightened the dingy spaces with her humor. She made the branches beautiful instead of barren, just by being there. I wanted her sparkle, for now and always. I was, and still am, angry that she had just 56 years to shine, even if she was so dazzling it hurt. Cancer took her away. It stole something from all of us who loved her, and it stole even more from her.

I¬†recently read a book that I know Linda would have found just as moving as I did (if a little melancholy for her tastes). The title attracted me…so much so that I’ve borrowed it to title this post…in part because, in my way of thinking, life energy doesn’t die but somehow goes somewhere else when someone dies. I don’t know what I believe beyond that, though it gives me some comfort to know that Linda believed her energy would join all the heavenly chorus to teach them all some really good karaoke tunes. I’m glad she knew where she was going, even if I remain unclear about the details. But since reading All the Light We Cannot See, I am even more convinced that what we see is so little of what is. Those of us with eyesight can become so reliant on our sense of sight as a form of evidence, of reassurance of presence. We have to “see” to believe, we close our ears to “distractions” to focus on the words and images before us. One of the main characters of the book is a blind child, and it is clear from the very beginning that she “sees” more than a hundred sighted people around her. As the author wrote about the choice of title for his book, “Ultimately, the title is intended¬†as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility.” But there are other wavelengths–of light, of sound, of an internal compass or navigation or life-force–that can’t be seen. There are other senses that inform us when we are open to all the many kinds of light that exist, regardless of our ability to see them.

So I know she’s there. I don’t like not being able to see her and I don’t know that my selfish wish to do just that with my own eyes and hug her with my human arms will ever leave me, but I know beyond a doubt that she won’t leave me either, not really. She’s just there, on another wavelength, beyond my earthly ability to see but within my heart’s ability to feel.

2 Responses to All the Light We Cannot See

  1. Manda

    Yes, yes, and yes, to everything you’ve shared here. And that book took my breath away; it has been by far my favorite selection chosen by my book club. My heart is with you friend.

  2. Yoli Ganong

    Oh, Courtney, how much you must miss her, and how hard it must be knowing your CALi is gone from this realm.
    I shall always regret that I did not get to see Linda in person, even though we lived not that far from each other. I am very grateful that I got to meet her through you, first in your blog posts and later becoming Facebook friends with her. I also come across her comments in some of the old FB posts that pop up looking back and I’m filled with a yearning sadness to have her comments again. I also feel her intense light, her joy of life, her immensely loving energy that reached me even without actually meeting her. Your aunt was a luminous being and all of us are very privileged who caught even a distant ray of her light. I can only imagine how much her loved ones miss her, and I can also imagine how she’s finding ways to keep sending you all signs that she’s watching to make sure you’ll always be able to feel her way of making you laugh with everything that comes your way.

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