When people die, we light candles to remember them.
To bring a light to the darkness now that they are no longer able to. When someone dies, I wonder how many more lights go out, how many unknown worlds living under their skin are submerged in an eternal darkness, extinguished. Mourning, grief, they feel like a power cut all throughout the city. Like the spark of electricity has stopped flowing, no longer sizzling with life, leaving us individually in our own rooms, our own houses, stranded in the dark. Reaching out in the dark, hands closing around emptiness.
Because when even one light goes out, all of our collective lights shine the dimmer. It may not be apparent all across the complex networks, the bundles of lights that can be seen from space, but there is always a gap. Which is why night rides always make me so wistful, you know. Looking at the city lights, at what every single one of them represents. Life, rising above the night. Light, when even the sun does not shine.
In grief, what comes to my mind first is somehow, always, always, this : “Where is all that light that used to animate your body? Where are the stars in your eyes?” And the thoughts that were like pulsating lights under your skin? How many more worlds slumber now in the darkness, how many more worlds were there that I will never explore? You and all your subterranean lights — may they make the world shine, even as they dim and fade. May they light up the world from the inside, like the earth has swallowed a star that won’t burn out.
But good things can come from the darkness. Sometimes, when we reach out, we find another hand is reaching out, too. And we can hold on to each other until the light arrives, again. It makes us talk, pop our heads out of the window and ask the neighbours if the light has gone out at their place, too.
“Do you have candles we can light ? I have matches.”
We can light them together, and share stories until the light arrives, until the light arrives. We do not have to be alone, lonely in the dark.
And I wonder, when we kindle all these candles for the dead, to light up the darkness — do we, do we look like stars to the stars ?
From space, where we are only networks of light, constellations ( This one here is China, and this one is Australia, this is…) does it look, to the stars that came before us, that we did not change so much after all ? And, did you notice ? Much like stars, our individual lights blaze long after we’ve died, because others carry it with them, like a torch, a light of remembrance.
And when one light goes out, how beautiful it is that we pour in our own strength, like a red candle held in one hand lighting another, and say that no matter how overwhelming the darkness, no matter how deep the grief, this star won’t go out ?
Note : Life has its own ways. This was something I wrote on Thursday, a week back, as a general reflection on grief, death and mourning. On Friday, however, I received some news. Saturday, I went to a funeral. And this became too relevant. So now, here it is.