What is to give light must endure burning.
Viktor Frankl (1905 to 1997)
Viktor Frankl endured Nazi concentration camp life for three years, losing his wife in the ovens. This experience helped him eventually develop Logotherapy and Existential Analysis, using the heat of his suffering to bring more light into the world.
Extreme temperatures, sometimes ranging around 3,000° F, are needed to burn silica sand and metals to create the beauty of stained glass, which is used to provide light in many houses of worship.
My son Brennan tried to burn things to get light into his dis-eased mind. Cigarettes. Marijuana. Heroin. It didn’t work beyond a temporary false fix. It only darkened his thoughts further and led to his demise a year ago.
Could I find a stained-glass window that represented him to bring light into the darkness of my pain? I went on a hunt this past June. By a quirk of fate, I walked into St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh.
And found it. A small window sitting above a rack of large white candles.
The primary image is of a tall tree in the center, representing me on my cancer journey. When I was diagnosed, Maria Paglialungo drew a tree of life on my hospital whiteboard and urged me to tap my roots into Mother Earth for sustenance. The scraggly black-and-white image from the beginning has been transformed into a straight, lush tree, full of vibrant color.
A brilliant white star streams light onto the tree. To honor the one-year anniversary of Brennan’s passing, my friend Judy Peace gave me an astrology reading which layered Brennan’s life with mine. The primary gift she saw Brennan giving me in this life is illumination for my life’s path. And this star in the window is like Brennan, now in the heavens, shining his light on my life.
On each side of the tree is a fleur-de-lys, symbol for the Christian godhead held together by Mother Mary; symbol for the Boy Scouts, of which Brennan was a member; and the same symbol that was embossed on the mysterious gift I received this past Christmas.
The flame of my son’s love keeps shining on my burning grief, and I am grateful.
Thriver Soup Ingredient:
There are many houses of worship with gorgeous stained-glass windows. If you look around, you might find an image that has a meaningful symbol for you. Perhaps light a candle near it.