This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
My grandmother passed away a couple days ago, and this song is what has been ringing through my head since then. The whole point of the song is that we are meant to act as lights for others to lead them to Christ. Jesus is the lantern unto our feet, and a light unto our path. Jesus is the Light that leads us to the Father. And as disciples of Jesus we are meant to illuminate the path to Jesus for those who are still lost in the dark. We are the light to the world. Let your light shine, the song says, so that others may also find the true Light, and also become bearers of the light of Christ.
When I think of people who were the light for me, my grandma tops the list. If everyone else in my life was a light, she was a blazing inferno. Everything she did, she did for her family and loved ones. Everything she did, she did out of love. I can’t remember a single time when I saw my grandma get angry, or a time when she put herself before someone else. Love your neighbor is the command given to us by Jesus, and she lived that every day. Her love was overflowing, her kindness showed through in every interaction, and that deeply affected our entire family and how we interacted with others. She made us all better people not through any wise words or lessons or discipline. But through simply being an example of how Christ’s love can flow through his disciples.
I have many memories of my grandma. I spent as much time over at her house as I did at home. She and my grandpa would take me on trips almost every summer. They would take me to “night church,” which I’ve written about here before. They took me to Bible camp. She was my Sunday School teacher. She was involved in almost every aspect of my childhood, and formative for most of it. What’s weird, though, is that despite all the time I spent with her, the most vivid memory I have barely involves her at all:
I was around 9 or 10 years old. My sisters and I were playing over at Grandma’s house. At some point, I called my sister “stupid.” I don’t remember why, but I was 10, so it was probably something silly like her beating me in Scrabble (that was mine and my Grandma’s favorite game to play together, so I got very competitive about it). My sister promptly ran to the kitchen where Grandma was preparing our dinner. She told on me. I heard Grandma shout from the other room, “BRETT!”
That’s it. That’s the entire memory. I don’t remember if Grandma scolded me, or made me apologize, or sat me down to tell me why it was wrong. I just remember the feeling I had when I realized Grandma didn’t approve of something I had just done. I remember the shame and guilt and regret.
My parents have always been great to me. They taught me right from wrong. It’s because of them that I knew it was wrong to call my sister “stupid.” But I never really internalized their lesson until that moment. I never really learned it. I never felt that it was wrong, I just knew it intellectually. I had called people “stupid” plenty of times before that, but even if I got scolded for it I never felt guilty. Usually I was just sad that I got in trouble, not for what I did. But this time was different. This time it was Grandma. And something clicked. The truth of what I had done was revealed to me. This time I was truly sorry. Grandma didn’t approve, and that’s when I knew I was wrong. That’s when I felt it.
Despite all the time I spent with her, that’s my most vivid memory of my Grandma. She was the moral arbiter in my childhood. She was my light. Without her, I was wandering in the dark. Christ dwells within us, and those around us ought to see Christ in everything we do. She was my first encounter with Christ. She let her light shine, always, and it’s because of her that I was ever able to find my path.
Now she has completed her own path. She is now with the true Light. Rest in peace, Grandma. I wish I had told you everything you had done for me. But I hope to see you again one day, so I can tell you. And so we can play one more game of Scrabble.