Unexpected Blessings from Cancer

Lightning Bug Love

The inside message on the Valentine’s Day card was simple and sweet. However, the message on the outside of the card received much more of my attention. No catchy rhyme or thought-provoking poem. No sugar-coated phrase or scripture reference on love. The message was a one-sentence quote: “Love must be as much a light as it is a flame.” Fire conjures up an element of romance, doesn’t it? I learned the quote came from Henry David Thoreau, the American writer, and deep thinker who wrote Walden’s Pond, a book we had to read as a senior in high school. (I may have been the only one who actually read it but I liked the earthy story.) No wonder the quote on the card caught my fancy. I paused to contemplate the statement’s meaning and wondered if the light and the flame had equal value. Fires turn to coals after a period of time but they still bring warmth and light.

Valentine’s Day tends to make me think more about the “flame” of love than it does the “light” of love. The imagery of a “flame” symbolizes heated emotion fueled by fiery passion. I mean, it’s not every day your husband brings home flowers, cards, and candy or takes you to a restaurant for an evening of fine dining. I love those “flaming” acts of love when I am presented with dark chocolate truffles and a bouquet of Walmart roses. What wife doesn’t love a gift purchased by her husband just for her? Heck, I get excited when Parky brings me home a box of Junior Mints!

Upon further reflection of the profound statement, it’s not the heat of love (e.g. the flame) I think of when I consider the enduring love George Parker Allen and I have shared for thirty-seven years. Of course, we’ve had our share of “flaming” moments: memorable vacations, fabulous dinners, and heartfelt conversations. No, those are not the first things that come to my mind. Instead, I think about the “light”- the sustaining light that first began to shine when we talked for hours on my front porch step because we didn’t want to say goodnight. The light lingered through my high school and college years even though I dated a few “someone else’s.” It was that same love light that helped me realize trust and stability was more important than fun and adventure when it came to long-term commitment.

Everyday acts of “light” make me smile – those ordinary things Parky does like washing my car, reaching to hold my hand as we walk, smoking a slab of ribs because I crave them, putting just the right amount of butter on my popcorn, or urging me to go to the department store to use the coupon that came in the mail. There’s no blazing flame in those gestures, no heat of passion – just a subtle glow from his love light.

I clearly remember the day Parky’s light shined ever so bright through the darkness of my cancer diagnosis. As we entered the professional building to get the results of my biopsy, he told me he loved more than my body. I suppose he was preparing himself for the possibility of my having a mastectomy. He said he loved my being, what made me who I was inside. My body was just a shell that housed my personality, my soul, my character. His words were a beautiful reassurance and the best, most wonderful thing he could have said to me at that moment. Truly, the Lord put those words on his tongue so that they might linger deep in my heart and mind more than the word “positive.” I am blessed to have a husband who “loves [his] wife, just as Christ loves the church” (Ephesians 5:25).

As I think about light and love, my mind drifts to an unusual bug – the lightning bug, or firefly. A firefly’s light is almost 100% light emitted from a chemical reaction known as bioluminescence while light from an incandescent bulb only emits 10% of its energy as light and 90% as heat. Hmmm . . . sounds like Mr. Firefly has almost exclusively “light” versus “flame” in his love language. Not surprising since their light is considered to be “cold” light.

Those little stinky light-flashing beetles have been called “flashy flirts” because male fireflies use a pattern of flashing to let Miss Firefly know she would be a good match for him. Miss Firefly flashes back in her own pattern, “Come check out my beautiful light, you luciferase-enzyme winged wonder, you.” Isn’t that magical how they flirt with one another flashing their tails under the cloak of night? Their flashing colors vary from green to yellow to pale red. “Ghost blue” has also been described but it is actually a derivative of the green. I guess Thoreau’s love quote doesn’t apply to them since there’s no “flame” to firefly love. Nonetheless, they do appear to offer traits of colors and patterns attracting one another to mate. See, we can relate to our beetle buddies on some level when it comes to love.

Interestingly, synchronized flashing can occur for unknown reasons although it only occurs in two places in the world: Southeast Asia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cool! The courtship light show has been turned into an annual tour as the synchronous “song” hovers over the forest floor from post-sunset to midnight in these locations. How romantic it must be to watch the lights begin flashing as one as if they were sending firefly Morse code “Pick me, pick me, pick me.”

Sadly, fireflies are slowly declining as a result of a loss of habitat, pesticides, and light pollution with artificial night lighting. If a field where fireflies once lived is paved over, they simply disappear. No migration – just gone forever. I remember them all over our front yard on Greenwood Circle growing up. The neighbor kids, us included, spent hours catching them and putting them in jars with holes punched in the lids. Kinda makes me sad now to know I might have broken up a promising lightning bug love nest!

8 Comments

  • J.D. Wininger

    Yep. I am definitely going to need an extra dose of insulin after reading this post Ms. Karen. Your “Parky” sounds like the synchronous emission of light you described, yet I somehow doubt there’s no “fire” left between you two beautiful souls. Isn’t it absolutely wonderful when God brings two of His children together in this world? It seems each makes the others’ journey just a bit easier. Happy Valentines Day to you and your Mr. Allen. I pray God’s continued blessings in your lives. Now I’ve got to do something to show Ms. Diane the wonderful light of our love this day. 🙂

    • Karen

      You’re right, my Texas rancher friend, there is most assuredly still some “fire” in our 37 years of marriage. It’s sweet to know that I first learned about my future husband when he attended elementary school! I couldn’t believe people called him Parky. Ha!

  • Joyce Peters

    My friend, I love reading your blogs for many reasons. One is the fact that you and I grew-up up together, and I enjoy reliving the people, places, and things that you write about. But another is the fact that I learn something new each time! Honestly, I’m still pondering the history of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” how sheep can’t upright themselves when they fall over, and now the synchronization of lightening bug flashes! Thank you for your life-long friendship and for continuing to enlighten me along the way. I’m loving the journey!

    • Karen

      And I’m totally loving the fact you read my blog and learn stuff! You were, are, and will always be a part of my life. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words.

    • Karen

      Thanks so much, Freddie Nell. Hope you signed up to receive my bi-weekly blog. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page.

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