You know how a baby’s smile lights up a room? It’s as if there’s some vast light source hidden behind a screen, and that little round face is a tiny window letting a smidgeon of the billions of gigawatts out there spill into the room we’re occupying.
You don’t have to be an infant to let that light spill out. Adults do it too — at least to the extent they retain enough of their baby selves intact.
This weekend Ana’s mother, Sylvia, slipped out of the room forever and escaped back out to that illuminated space behind the screen.
She left a great deal of light behind.
During her stay at the nearby nursing home over the past four years, Sylvia was eventually promoted to a room at the front of the building with a large bedside window with full sunlight access. (The nursing-home equivalent of the top executive’s coveted corner office.) Every day when we would go to visit her, we would walk by that window on the way into the building and peek in. Most days we would be rewarded with her beaming face and an enthusiastic wave of the hand. There was as much sunlight streaming out of that window as there was going in.
Sylvia’s roommate’s husband used to visit every day. After his wife died, he kept right on visiting. How could he not? Sylvia was a beacon that prevented many a ship from foundering upon the rocks of loneliness. One nurse’s aide had a visit not long ago from her out-of-state daughter. In the twenty-four hours they had together, what did she do? She brought her daughter in to visit Sylvia.
And this was on her day off.
My job over the past few years was to bring Sylvia fresh hot coffee in a thermos (“Ah, the good stuff”), sit and visit, spill the news about my latest book project, and tell her how much I loved her daughter. Easiest job I ever had.
The day she died, a torrential rain came gushing out of the sky. When the man from the funeral home gently covered her body and rolled it out the side door on a gurney, Ana burst out the door to hug her mom for the last time. When she turned back, she saw nine or ten nurses and staff lined up by the door weeping.
But the weeping was for ourselves and our loss — not for her. She’s busy lighting up her new digs.
I’m not so sure that’s how it works.
I have the feeling Sylvia is kicking up her heels right now in that light-world beyond the curtain, doing a whole lot less resting and a whole lot more radiating.
Meanwhile, for you and me she has left this lesson behind:
Let your light shine.
Let it spill out into the room. It’s the reason you’re here.