But while I was there a light came on in an unexpected place. I met a cousin for the first time. His name was Christopher, the son of my first cousin Chris. As my family gathered at my grandmother’s house to celebrate her life and to mourn her death, Christopher and I became very close.
Christopher was five-years-old then, and he was born with Down Syndrome. He had few words. It was an experience of grace and patience for me to learn to communicate with him. I learned that “k’mon” means “come with me,” that “no” is a word that all children can use, and that “eep” means sleep. Actually “eep” means that Christopher and I were to go into my grandmother’s bedroom, lie down on the bed, and play with the light.
My grandparents built their house eighty years ago, before electricity was commonly available in the rural mountains of North Carolina. Later, when electric lights were installed, the electrician did not put wall switches in the rooms. The light in my grandmother’s bedroom was a single naked light bulb with a string that ran from a little chain on the fixture to the bedpost. When I was Christopher’s age, his father and I used to love to pull that string over and over turning the light on and off.
Christopher was no different.
Each time he would pull that string Christopher would giggle and laugh, and as surely as the light from that light bulb brightened the room, Christopher’s laughter drove away the darkness.
He reminded me of my grandmother’s unshakable faith. Through floods and blizzards, through the premature deaths of her husband and her oldest child, she turned to look at Jesus—she held onto Jesus. And it drove away the darkness. Like Mary at the tomb on Easter morning, she lived life with fear and tears and great joy. And through her humble and compassionate life, she, like Mary, told the world, “I have seen the Lord!”
She helped me see him too.