Why in the night sky are the lights hung?

Why in the night sky are the lights hung?
Why is the earth moving ’round the sun?
Floating in the vacuum with no purpose, not a one.
Why in the night sky are the lights hung?
Why is life made only for to end?
Why do I do all this waiting then?
Why this frightened part of me that’s fated to pretend?
Why is life made only for to end?

“Blue Spotted Tail” by Fleet Foxes

Constellation_Fornax,_EXtreme_Deep_Field

By Amanda Cleary Eastep

These are the lyrics of the lullaby-like melody I am singing to myself as I walk between the gravestones of Holy Sepulcher Cemetery on the south side of Chicago.

I have turned away from the last sight of my sister-in-law’s mother, her white casket covered in single roses and carnations, yellow and pink against January’s pallor.

My parents stand beside me. My mother seems smaller but is a block of rosy granite in her pink wool coat. My father is grayer but straight as a flagpole, steady and ready to lean on.

That was a year ago this month, and I have spent the past year contemplating the germinating changes in our lives…

…children growing up and making decisions that don’t include us

…losses that we carry on the inside, because we can only divide the weight between so many

…dreams of yanking roots from the miry clay of Illinois and transplanting ourselves on a North Carolina hillside.

I have thought also about the inevitability of dying. It’s a practical horror. And an unappreciated gift.

Songs that ask the common questions about the meaning of life, or lack thereof, remind me of Ecclesiastes and the writer’s lament that “all is vanity.” The writer of the book observes our lives and the seeming futility of our daily toil, our pleasure, and our gain, which all ends in death anyway.

Throughout our lives, we each stand beside a place like this, a grave site, a sick bed. We wonder if we could have been kinder. Spent more time talking about what matters. We wonder when our time will come. If we are living in a way that will someday close with a contented sigh.

At the end of Ecclesiastes, “the conclusion of the whole matter,” the writer says that what is most important, or rather what makes life meaningful, is to fear God and keep his commandments.

Where some may find a message of meaningless in our existence in the lyrics of the song quoted above, I see a final answer similar to Ecclesiastes within the question: Why in the night sky are the lights hung?

Because someone has placed them there.

When my kids were little, I stuck glow-in-the-dark stars on their bedroom ceiling.

For what purpose?

Did I use these plastic decorations to teach them about the scientific and mathematical complexities of the universe? No. I did so mostly to bring them comfort in the dark and to inspire them to imagine.

Last January, as I said goodbye to Anita before sharing a meal with mourners who would all return to their living, the song played over and over in my head, ironic in its lullaby sweetness.

Why in the night sky are the lights hung?

Not as evidence of our deservingness but as testament to a creator who cares about our sorrow and hope…

…who wants us to gaze up and contemplate and dream and wish…

…who loves us enough to decorate infinity for us.

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