They said of him, “His light went out.”
No-one was supposed to ask where–like all things related to death, it was taboo.
Of course, taboos were made to be broken.
“Where did his light go, mommy?” The child’s voice pierced through all the low murmuring, bringing red to the cheeks of his mother as every eye turned inexorably in their direction.
“Well, Thomas,” she stuttered, trying to avoid making eye contact with the judgmental mourners, “we don’t talk about that, okay? We’re supposed to be being respectful and quiet. Can you be quiet?”
“But I want to know!” The childish pout and the sincere curiosity did nothing to soften the faux pas; the undertone of voices turned sharp, bitter.
“We don’t know!” she hissed finally, trying to deflect the glares. “It just did. Now be quiet!”
Though his voice was silenced, his mind continued working away at the problem. He never asked his mother the question again; the embarrassing incident at the wake fell to the back of her mind. Thomas went elsewhere to find the answers.
His father had no answers, only a confusing theory about all lights becoming one at the end. This theory, while elegant, was dissatisfying; his father had no actual evidence to back it up. It only ‘seemed likely.’ He did not want beautiful possibilities; he wanted to know the truth.
The elders of his community either glared at the presumptuous youngster and told him to “mind your tongue!” or they told him piously, “It is not for us to know.”
Dissatisfied, he continued searching. When he learned to read, he searched the ancient texts; he found a few vague references to one who would “show the way,” or the “chosen light.” He vowed to discover this one, and learn to where all the lights went.
Thomas traveled from town to town, only stopping long enough to find out if anyone in the town knew where light went. He found a few others like himself, mostly younger, who ended up following him. Word spread about, and people would often meet them at the outskirts of town and refuse them entrance. He never gave up, though.
One day, after a long time, when he was beginning to feel aches in strange places, he and his friends came to a town that had not yet heard of the strange wanderers. They were met with the strangest and most hopeful response they had heard yet. “Oh, you mean the Teacher? Of course! He’s probably in the marketplace.”
They went with utmost speed, reaching the marketplace completely breathless and tingling with excitement. Thomas wove through the mass of those listening, leaving his friends behind in his haste and blind desire. He was about to learn–he would finally know–
And he burst through the last line, falling to his knees before the rather nondescript teacher at the center of the crowd.
“Teacher,” he said, panting, “How can I find out where the lights go when we die?” The crowd drew back from him, muttering. Thomas did not notice. His eyes were fixed on what he had been searching for all his life.
With a penetrating gaze, the teacher stood and looked at him. Finally, his eyes softened, and he said just two words. “Follow me.”
When it became clear that no more would be said today, the crowd dispersed. Thomas was left alone with the teacher, his friends, and a small band of those already following the Teacher. They all went in silence to a small house, where they sat down and the teacher began teaching.
Such wonderful things he said! He told of the place where the lights went, called heaven; of his mission; of strange things like loving one’s enemies and giving up one’s home.
Thomas could bear it no longer; from his mouth it burst–“Teacher, how do you know these things?”
The teacher gave him a long, searching look. “My father told me.”
And he continued teaching.
Thomas continued listening.