Light Upon Light

The Light Is Within Each of Us
The Light Is Within Each of Us

The days are short now. The bright sun of summer is a far distant memory. Add fog, cloudiness, rain and suddenly I find myself getting the light from bulbs rather than rays. Yes, I live in California, but even here this time of year brings a decidedly different orientation to light.

For most of my life, I’ve leaned towards the sun for my light like a many-limbed plant, hungry for nourishment. It’s only been in the last part of my life that I’ve discovered the rays inside.

In the most difficult moments, I’ve stumbled around in the darkness inside. There was a reason I hadn’t ventured in willingly. That darkness is really dark. The rays aren’t apparent at first…at least they weren’t for me. I fumbled in this darkness many, many times never finding anything remotely resembling the light outside that I was so familiar with.

One time in particular, these inner rays finally broke through. It was in the midst of one of the most heart-wrenching experiences I can imagine – my grandson’s fight for his life, which began when he was twelve hours old.

When the light broke through, there were no bells and whistles, no sudden chorus of voices, no wildly evocative images, no mystical experience. There was only a deep darkness that gave way to radiant rays so bright, that my heart knew it was held, held by something so much greater than anything my mind could imagine. And in this holding, I discovered a strength born of a thousand suns.

This radiance came when I let go of my struggling. My baby grandson, my first grandchild, lying in a full size bed so completely covered with hospital trappings,  that we could only stroke his fingers or one cheek.

I was at the end of the many ways I had found to cope in life with difficult things. What I had tried didn’t work. I desperately wanted to be there for my daughter and son-in-law, someone who could provide loving support and nourishment. I wasn’t much help if I couldn’t be there for them.


I marched myself right down the hall to the hospital chapel and went inside, closing the door behind me and vowing not to leave until I was able to come out in a different frame of mind. I vowed I would come out able to be really available to them, to my grandson and to whatever lay ahead. I don’t know how long I was in there, but I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. I had never been someone who prayed like this, but it was completely instinctive.

I prayed to be shown a way to let go of my struggle, to let go of my neediness so I could be truly a source of nourishment for their needs. My fighting the whole thing was simply a way for me to not want to feel what was happening.

In the deepest moments of my prayer, I stopped asking and I began to listen, really listen. And in the listening, I opened to the grace that was already there. Light upon light.

I didn’t come out enlightened. I didn’t come out as mother of the year. I didn’t come out knowing the right things to do or say. I did come out knowing something deeper was holding me. I came out having reconciled that in that moment Lucas was as Lucas was. Accepting this didn’t mean at all that I couldn’t pray and hope he would get better; it didn’t mean I was happy how things were. I did mean I wasn’t fighting it any longer.

And when I was no longer fighting life, life began to move through me. I was available. I could be with my daughter and son-in-law. I could sing to Lucas, read him stories, hold his finger, stroke his cheek, hold my daughter, hold the space.

I could sit in the waiting room for hours on end as procedures came and went, able to be with the not-knowing, able to witness other young parents and their babies, some of them surviving, many of them not.

I could say hello to the little ones who live at Children’s Hospital, those who have no hope of ever leaving, feeling my connection to them rather than allowing my discomfort, my not wanting to take it in, my wanting to fix it and make it different get in the way of what was there…their beautiful souls.

The three months Lucas was at Children’s Hospital in Oakland seemed an eternity, but he survived against so many odds that they called him the miracle baby. They do amazing work there. He is now almost ten. Talk about light; this boy is radiant.


For me, this light has come in the letting go, in the surrender, in the giving up of what I thought should have been. It’s come in the genuine desire to let go of my wanting so that I could serve another. In those moments, what was born was born through me into life.

For me, this light is strength, but not strength that breeds pushing and striving. It’s strength that flows.

Sometimes with the day-to-day life stuff, this inner light seems distant; yet when I come back to now, back to what is really happening, it’s always here. It always was here.

Image courtesy of Narrow on Flickr, under CC 2.0.


SupportStoriesButtonThis post is part of the Support Stories – Strength From Within at Square Peg Reflections, by Karen Casterson. Be sure to take a moment to read some of the other inspiring stories about finding strength from within.

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19 Replies to “Light Upon Light”

  1. Beautiful. As always, Julie.

    A friend’s mother died Friday and I was feeling so lost not being able to be there for him and “make it better.” Like I often do, I just wrote and it eased my pain. I normally wouldn’t have been on Twitter this late, but I was and came here.

    Thank you for reminding me I can find the light.

    hugs, lmb

    1. Lisa,
      I’m so sorry about your friend’s mother’s passing. I totally get the wanting to ‘make it better’. And, I bet he is filled with gratitude because he has you in his life. I’m so glad to know you, Lisa. Sending love,

  2. Oh! Julie – so many phrases here that are now embedded in my heart. This felt like balm to me.

    Your post took me back 20 years – to when one of my sons was in the hospital fighting for his life (for 3 months also, like your grandson). Our story ended differently, Christopher didn’t get to come home with us, but those moments of light upon light did.

    I swore, when I went through the experience of losing my son — and the light upon light stuff that surrounded the whole thing, that I’d never forget — but I do. And I’m so grateful to you for the reminder!

    And the process, Julie — oh — I can’t believe how close your description is to the one went through.

    1. Karen,
      I am so sorry for all that you had to experience. It is amazing, isn’t it, how our experiences, like those of Heather and Dian, too, all seem to have a similar quality. We are surrounded with love and grace, peace and blessings. Always.
      Thank you for creating this blog round robin. It’s really remarkable.
      Much love,

  3. Yes. Just that… a resounding YES. I remember a similar light when my son Matthew died and we were filled with inexplicable peace. When I left the hospital without him, it felt like I was being carried on a cloud.

    1. Oh, Heather. What an extraordinary experience that must have been. I can only imagine what that was like. Sometimes, this kind of grace and peace are inexplicable.
      Thank you.
      Sending you love,

  4. Indeed the similarities are apparent between this description of your experience and the space I finally came to when my father was in his hospital getting ready to die. It’s truly amazing what can come from accepting what is allowing life to still breath through you. Bless you and your grandson, and the light within you both, my dear.

    1. Dian,
      It’s amazing, isn’t it, how simple things are. We all experience loss and pain, and we are all surrounded by deep wisdom and grace. Always. Thank you for your blessings.
      Blessings to you. You are such a jewel.

  5. It is a sacred act to be the space for what is, the space that can witness and hold the fear, pain and doubt of others and remain rooted in Peace and Love. Part way through your post I thought – wow, this is exactly like Surrender … and then I got there. How rare to see this experience captured so succinctly in words. Beautiful and inspiring …

  6. “And when I was no longer fighting life, life began to move through me.”

    Oh Julie, it’s like my heart has been struck like a gong. Yes. This. Yes.

    1. Beautiful, Bridget…my heart struck like a gong. It’s funny how it feels when something resonates.
      Thank you for your kind words.

  7. What an extraordinary moment in an exceptional woman’s life (that would be yours). To know the depth of surrender and the beauty born of it is sublime. I’m thinking of the gift of your presence for everyone there in that hospital when you let go of what you thought you needed and found what mattered most. Such Grace.
    Thanks for sharing this touching story.

  8. This. Is. Utterly. Beautiful.

    Really, that’s all I can say about this right now. Me, who almost never has a problem finding words.

    But I’m bookmarking this post. THANK you, Julie.

    1. Michelle,
      Thank you so much. It’s wonderful to see you here. Almost speechless, for a woman who is almost never without words. That’s saying a lot. I look forward to knowing you better.
      Many blessings,

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