Barry’s light

On Christmas Eves in the past, my friend Barry drove his large flatbed trailer downtown so the Shepherds of Good Hope could use it as a platform for their Christmas Eve services. My friend Barry helped clear the snow off the neighbourhood rink every year. He coached hockey, organized dances for the Knights of Columbus, served on school councils, and collected for the Cancer Society and March of Dimes. He lifted, toted, barbecued, organized, and gave and gave and gave.

He was big and strong and so rarely sick that if he ever did go to the doctor for, say, a tetanus shot, the medical staff had to dig his records out of the archives.

A year and a half ago nature raised a mighty hand and swiped. Barry was gone at age 46, victim of an extremely rare and viciously lethal form of lymphoma.

Oh, how we ache with missing him.

Barry had an enthusiasm for Christmas lights.

His house was a colourful array of blinking strings that he always seemed to hang on the stormiest, windiest night of the year. Barry also had an enthusiasm for Rubbermaid storage boxes—stacks of them. When he died, without Barry there to brave the storm, his family toned down their Christmas lighting. Our household was the lucky recipient of two large Rubbermaid storage boxes full of Christmas lights and bulbs.

Last year my husband dug out Barry’s boxes and hung our lights for the season. He placed the bulbs in a particular colour sequence: red, green, yellow, blue, white; red, green, yellow, blue, white . . .. When he finished hanging the lights, he plugged them in and sat in one of the chairs on our front porch to appreciate his work and savour the joy that Christmas lights bring. As he sat, a light began to blink. It made him think of Barry, and he smiled. He told me, and I smiled. And then we didn’t think about it again.

This year my husband dug out Barry’s boxes and hung our lights for the season. He placed the bulbs in the particular colour sequence. When he finished hanging the lights, he plugged them in and stood back to admire his work. As he stood there, one yellow light began to blink. Once again he thought of Barry and smiled—a warm moment of connection with his friend, just for him. But, not wanting to leave one inexplicable blinking light on the string, he dug through Barry’s box for a replacement. Every bulb he tried blinked. He came into the house to scour through our boxes for extra bulbs. We had red, blue, white, green—every colour but yellow. He climbed the basement stairs and called out to me, “Barry’s haunting me. All his yellow bulbs blink.”

It seems to us Barry wants to make his presence known.

And so, one yellow bulb blinks on our string of Christmas lights. We call it “Barry’s light.” Every time I arrive home in the evening and see Barry’s light blinking at me, I feel the enveloping warmth of one of his powerful hugs, and I feel that our friend Barry, who is gone, somehow still shares Christmas with us.

5 thoughts on “Barry’s light

  1. Susan Murphy

    This Saturday marks the one year anniversary of the passing of my Sister In Law’s father, Larry. My brother and his family, like many of us, are environmentally conscious and have replaced the lightbulbs in their home with CLF bulbs. These bulbs are designed to last for years- one investment goes a long way – but not in their house. Since Larry died, my brother has been forced to frequently change the bulbs in various parts of the house, as they flicker and burn out. We know that it’s Larry, ever the practical joker, coming to pay a visit to his daughter, son in law and grandkids.

    Thanks for sharing your story and reminding me of this one.

    1. Arlene Post author

      We considered changing to new strings of lights for the more environmentally friendly bulbs, but throwing out perfectly good lights didn’t seem like such a good environmental move either. I’m glad we waited.


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