My mother described this photograph, taken by a friend while I spoke at my husband’s memorial service, as resembling a “mini-Vermeer.” The photograph is as I remember my surroundings from my perspective: only small crescents of light amid intricate dark wood panels and deep jewels of leaded glass.
And I remember blurred darkness as I spoke: the deep navy blue of my sleeve, the mahogany grain of the lectern against which my inadequate words swam in a shadow of black font on paper puckered and rippled from my fingers’ grip.
But I learned there was at least one entirely different perspective on what can be seen in the same photograph.
I wrote about light streaming through the University Chapel’s front glass windows, cued by the words “fill us with the light of day,” as Hymn to Joy was sung at a recent alumni memorial service.
One of my husband’s sisters responded that the story of the recent service reminded her “of the incredible sunlight coming in through the stained glass windows at Jim’s service in Exeter while you were talking about your life with him. It was simply stunning.”
I saw shadows; she saw the sunlight.
During the fall of Jim’s illness, I drove one of my daughters past a corner I had seen at least twice every day, and often many more times. It was on the route my husband and I took to the hospital where he endured fruitless chemotherapy and radiation, and the pharmacies where I picked up an arsenal of medications for him.
I would take a different, quicker route when getting my husband to the emergency room, beginning only a few months later.
One magnificent maple tree towered over an expanse of grass at that corner. When my older daughter came home for her first school break, I pointed out the view to her as we drove past.
“There, with the chair underneath.” I tilted my head as I rounded the corner.
“You mean the chairs.”
Only then did my brain process what she immediately saw: there were two white chairs, stacked together under the tree—not a single lonely chair, as I had seen the same sight.
© 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon