Recently, I was challenged to write a story about someone who must keep a fire burning, surrounded by total darkness. I have been thinking about this for a few days and have been pondering what type of emotions I will have to explore to write this story. This has triggered a host of troubling emotions and thoughts. The darkness in my life has always been real.
The memory that stands out to me is when my brother, Mike, and I were dropped off at this lady’s house during the week. She ran some type of off-grid daycare. We were about four or five years old. I believe it was the year before I was removed from my home. Even on our best behavior, we found ourselves in this dark closet. It was in a room that was already dark, and the closet was even darker. No light shined in at all. It was total darkness.
My brother is one year older than me. He sat on one side of the closet, and I sat on the other side. The closet was about four feet wide, and I remember our feet touching the walls with our knees in the bent position. I would always grab my knees and place my head right in the middle of my legs. We would sit there for hours, listening for any sound of hope. We always hoped to be released from the closet early. Some days we would hear footsteps, and the door would open; we would be led out into the light. Our eyes would be half-closed and our legs would hardly work because we had been sitting so long in one position.
The resilience of the darkness brought many imaginary things to life. We knew the darkness was real, and it provided solace and comfort, but being seen by someone could lead to torture or other forms of abuse. We made the darkness our friend. I couldn’t see my brother, but I knew he was there. I would often say, “Mike, are you there?” He always answered in a sweet, small voice, “Yes, I’m here.” As I write this, tears are streaming down my face. These emotions are stronger than I had originally thought, but I am going to press on. It’s a yellow door situation. I have an escape plan.
As we sat there, hour after hour, we would make up things to do in the darkness. One thing we did most often was to build a fire. One, so we could keep warm because it was cold in that closet, and two, so we could have some light to see each other. We had grown to expect to be put in the closet. We knew going in what we were going to have to do. Mike would often say, “Get the fire going because I’m cold.” I would say, “I need some light in here.” This was a necessity, not a game. We knew we needed each other, and we needed light. Fire is light. I would imagine what my brother’s face looked like and would depend on that image to get me through to the light of day.
When we had the fire going, I would say, “You feel that?” Mike would always say, “Yes, I feel it, George.” I fanned the flames more and more, and the light would illuminate his face from his chin to his hairline. “There you are, my brother,” I would say. As the flames grew larger, I could see the closet and the contents. There was an old coat and some hangers on a rail just above me. It was mostly empty, except for one thing. There was some writing on the wall about mid-way down the closet. We were not the only ones who had been put in that closet before. There had been generations of innocent children shut up in that darkness. Broken to pieces.
The writing on the wall read, "Keep the fire going; never let it go out. Fan the flames and keep adding wood and you will make it.” It was signed in a scripted word that looked like HOPE.
So, my job each day at just four years old was to fan the flames for my brother and me. He was much stronger than me, but I was more technically minded and the only one who could start the fire and keep it going. Even now when we chat, I am the encourager, the one who brings enlightenment, and the one who brings some clarity to any circumstance. His part of handing me the wood to feed the fire was important in that closet. We worked together.
Those who had gone before us had forged a path of hope. It is written in that closet. In the darkness, there is hope; in the light, there is hope; in the midst of any circumstance, there is always hope. No matter if you find yourself in the darkest place on earth, there is light. You have a part to play in the closet—to fan the flames. They may be dim at first, but you will see the writings on the wall signed by HOPE.
Amazing grace is what we can call it. Coming out of that dark closet each day with my little eyes barely opened, I knew there would be more to endure in this life and that was just the beginning. I knew that what I read on that wall was not meant just for me, but for all of us.
My task of writing about someone who had to keep a fire burning, surrounded by total darkness, has become all too real to me. This story opened a floodgate of emotions, but as always, with the release of the thoughts and emotions, I am free. My hope is ever alive, and I know that whatever and wherever you are broken, there is always HOPE! It is written!