"Embrace the darkness", she encouraged us.
It was during a mini-lecture on the origins of the day - winter solstice; its history and how ('back in the day' - 1400-1500's) Christianity combined its beliefs with established pagan traditions as a way of ensuring the 'new' religion would be accepted by the early Celts and Druids.
It was an informative talk, and the speaker was entertaining and knowledgeable ... but I couldn't help but think of an experience I had with GI Joe shortly after the death of his father.
The first Ash Wednesday after his dad died, 5 yr old GI Joe was attending a sermon for kids at the altar about what the imposition of ashes signified and why we did it.
The Rector giving the lesson was a woman my son had known for years; she was one of my best friends.
Right after she got through the explanation - that it's a way for us to remember that God formed us from the dust of the earth and to it, we will return - GI Joe stood up and started to walk away.
When Susie asked him where he was going, he replied "Thanks, but I just saw my father put in the ground; I don't really need another reminder".
I understand that today's the day when daylight is it's shortest since our planet is in its furthest rotation away from the sun.
I appreciate that 'the ancients' (why do I feel uncomfortably like I could fit into that category!) feared that the failing light would never return unless they intervened with anxious vigil and antic celebration.
I hadn't known that Mesopotamians are believed to have been the first to have engaged in a 12 day festival designed to help the god, Murdak, "tame the monsters of chaos" for 1 more year.
To which I say, "Nice try, but it didn't work!"
I've seen several monsters of chaos in the past 2 weeks and, not only have they not been tamed, they're going stronger than ever!
We have all kinds of wonderful ways to ward off the darkness this time of year and many of them work, at least, temporarily.
When I was a child, confusing, scary and hurtful things happened when the lights went out.
I have worked VERY hard to overcome a lingering fear of the dark and have succeeded all too well, according to family and friends - many of whom ask for a miners helmet when they enter my house since it's generally so dimly lit.
(Can you say overcompensation?)
I don't think there's a single person working in the ER who isn't painfully aware that there are forces of darkness at work in the world.
And, for all the beautiful ways we try to fool ourselves and keep it at bay, it's still there.
Whether it's the solstice of winter - or summer - there's a darkness that lives within human beings which makes itself known in both blatant and insidious ways.
So, for now, I'll continue to combat the darkness with the only means that I've found to be effective.
Do some folks really need a whole day to recognize, honor or celebrate the darkness?
"Embrace the darkness?"; thanks, but NO.
I've seen a child who was beaten to death this week; I don't need another reminder.