Wednesday 23 August 2017

You'd better light a candle, it's about to get very dark

As the Sun turns south on the longest day, it's time for us souls of the north to reflect on our humanity, says Miriam O'Callaghan

Who by fire: Jules Breton, La Fête de la Saint-Jean (1875), marking the feast of Saint John the Baptist on June 24, an important occasion in France
Who by fire: Jules Breton, La Fête de la Saint-Jean (1875), marking the feast of Saint John the Baptist on June 24, an important occasion in France

Miriam O'Callaghan

That afternoon, around half-past four, darkness falls. And we let it. No one runs out, arms stretched against the sky, to prevent its toppling.

Outside, there's a new holly wreath on the front door threaded with a wide, black velvet ribbon. Inside, the darkness is killing the light. It will be the second death in the house that day. A tall candle burns as witness to the first. The death is of a man. My father.

Suddenly, we're dazzled. A table lamp switches on automatically. Seconds later, as if it's lit enough, seen enough, it switches itself off. It happens again. And again. It continues for the last three nights my father spends in his house. As we take our turns to sit with him, we know it's a signal. Only he knows what it says.

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