a few months ago

This Little Light of Mine

I’ve been working on a new blog post, but it wasn’t quite right.

I’ve got so much I want to communicate right now, and it is sort of the inverse of trying to drink from the fire hose: so much wants to come out, but translating it into digestible word forms can be challenging.

Then I wrote an email to my friend, Luis, and it all became clear what I want to write in this post.

My grandma – my dad’s mom – recently died. She was a powerful person. Her spirit dominated the room.

I saw her last Spring. I hadn’t seen her in 20 years. But as it would happen, I was traveling through Arkansas (where she lived) with my family as we were moving from New Mexico to Vermont. And just as we were an hour away from where my grandma lived, I realized that we’d be going right past her.

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I hadn’t even consider it until then. But a quiet voice spoke to me and whispered, “Stop and see your grandparents.”

I didn’t want to. I felt uncomfortable.

Because, as I said, my grandma was a powerful person. She truly dominated.

But this voice persisted. “Stop by. See them.”

So I called directory assistance and got her phone number. I called. My grandpa answered. He gave me directions. I told him we’d be there in an hour.

Maybe 15 years ago doctors told my grandpa that my grandma was going to die. They told him to have the family come to say their goodbyes. My mom and dad drove the 6 hour trip to visit with the belief it would be their last time seeing her.

She had gone in for a colonoscopy, and they’d perforated her colon. As a result, they performed an emergency surgery to remove her colon. And she wasn’t expected to survive.

She did survive.

Somehow, I don’t think this surprised most people who knew her. Like I said, she was a powerful person.

My grandma had a powerful faith in Jesus and the Christian God.

She was raised in a pentecostal church culture. And she was a devoted Church of God member for as long as I knew her.

When I would visit during the summers, we’ve attend church on Wednesdays and Sundays. If you’ve never experienced a Church of God service, let me assure you, it is a lively experience.

In 2012 when I was really sick with Lyme disease and I thought I was about to die, I called her and asked her to pray for me.

Not a second elapsed from the time I asked and when she began. She prayed in Jesus name. And it was exactly what I needed.

Significantly – in light of this post – she told me to read the book of Job. Or, perhaps, she just told me that it was one of her favorite.

I read it. I think I’m going to re-read it. It is very apropos.

At some point – I don’t know exactly when – my grandma experienced complications from the colon surgery that resulted in her needing to get dialysis for the rest of her life. The schedule changed depending on her need, but I think that at a minimum, she had to go once per week.

When I saw her last year, she was probably 100 pounds lighter than when I had last seen her 20 years prior. Her health was poor, to put it mildly. But her spirit still dominated.

It was good to see her. Even if uncomfortable for me.

I didn’t have a strong relationship with my grandma. Part of that was distance – when I was two years old she moved back to Arkansas while my family remained in Illinois.

But her death has had a surprising effect on me. I grieve for my grandpa, who has lost his wife and partner of 70 years. I grieve for her children who were close to her and surely miss her dearly.

But I also feel happy. Not because she died. But because I feel that she is with me now in ways that I didn’t know while she was alive. I feel close to her and I feel her love and her power and faith in ways that I never did before.

I may write more about that in another post. But for now – again, because of the “drinking from the firehose” effect – I’ll attempt to keep this post focused – or, at least, as focused as possible.

There’s a song that I think of when I think of my grandma. Not necessarily because I have memories of her singing it or because I think that she had a particular affinity with this song. But intuitively, I associate this song with her.

You may know it.

This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.


Hide it under a bush, oh no! I’m gonna let it shine.

Hide it under a bush, oh no! I’m gonna let it shine.

Hide it under a bush, oh no! I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

That’s not all of the verses. But those are the ones that I think of when I think of my grandma.

I’ve come to see that my life is not just for me. Your life is not just for you.

We are here for the whole.

I believe I mentioned this in the previous post.

It’s easy to get lost in nihilism. And I’ve done a lot to push people in the direction of nihilism in the past. But I had lost sight of something important, and this is important to keep in mind as the context for everything that comes from me.

I too am a person of strong faith. I have a strong faith in the goodness of life.

Despite the fact that I do believe that it has been essential for me and my sanity and peace of mind to see that the meanings that I projected were essentially empty and had no basis in the essence of of experience…I do not believe that means that life is totally devoid of meaning.

There is meaning. And that meaning is inherent in life.

It is a mystery. It is the magic that I wrote about in the previous post.

And the very fact that we exist at all – that anything is happening (which is most certainly is) – is a testament to the magic, mystery, and meaning inherent in life.

Because it means something that we exist versus not.

I can’t tell you in words what that meaning is.

But our lives are that meaning.

That bears repeating: our lives are that meaning. It is a living meaning. It is not something we can capture and put into words. But it is lived and totally obvious if only we open our hearts, minds, and eyes.

And that meaning is not just for us individually. It is for all.

Which is why my life is not just for me. It is for you. It is for all of us.

And your life is not just for you. It is for me. It is for all of us.

This little light of mine.

It’s not my light. I am that light. That light is what I am.

It is not to glorify me.

I am to glorify it.

And I glorify it by shining it.

This is an exercise in trust. And faith. And sacrifice.

Not popular notions in our present culture.

But feel into it. You’ll see the truth of it. Your heart says yes.

It’s the reason we cry when we hear stories of people making sacrifices for others – people risking everything to smuggle people out of Nazi concentration camp, for example.

Because we recognize that our lives are for something bigger than us.

There’s a lot of stuff that is wanting to come through me right now. And it is scary because it asks nothing less than everything.

Most of it I cannot understand. And sharing it runs the risk of looking like fool.

But I must. And I will be doing so as it happens. So stay tuned.

Expect some weird shit.

And let your light shine. Because it’s not just for you. We all need it.


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