I could see nothing of the flying thing except its shadow.
It was an odd sensation watching the small moving shadow flit in a silent lilting ballet in front of me, almost whispering to me to follow. And yet, looking up and all around me, I could find no butterfly or moth or bird or bee or any kind of winged creature or even a wind-swept blossom or leaf to account for this shadow’s existence. Yet there it was – a well-formed shadow; dark-edged, animated, dancing across the ground, across my path.
It was August. One of those rare summer days in the South that takes pity on us with a fresh breeze to escort the humidity off to the side for a bit and leaves the sky an impossible blue. And so I let the phantom shadow lead my way – unquestioning its presence, just sharing this moment in time with the unseen.
My mind wandered deeper into the idea of shadows and the world of “things not seen.” Biblical wisdom says that faith is “the evidence of things not seen.” And so are shadows, I reasoned. They are, of course, the evidence of something solid, positioned between the light and the surface beyond it. The evidence of something there, even if you can’t see the object itself. Yet shadows can also be the evidence of something once there, but no longer able to be seen – the shape of a memory, the remnant of a life. How many times had I caught the “shadow” of my beloved dog, Indy, that summer after his passing. He was pure grace and courage and love to the end. And his shadow continues to be strong in my life, catching at the corner of my eye, the edge of my heart, when I least expect it.
And, suddenly, I also found re-haunting my memory, photographs I had once come across of the shadows of Hiroshima. It was August when they were created, too. August 6, 1945. The atomic bomb exploded almost 2,000 feet above the ground, it never actually hit the earth. And yet, its effect did more than take hundreds of thousands of lives and flatten entire cities. It left shadows. Shadows of substances that had absolutely disappeared in its intensity. There is one shadow of a man running, I remember; he is wearing a hat, making it somehow all the more real and poignant. Another man’s shadow is holding onto a ladder. And there is a bicycle. And a person with a cane crossing a street – from where, to where, is no longer knowable.
All that remain are the shadows. But the shadows do remain. The evidence of things not seen. Shadows of something once present, now gone.
Perhaps my unseen companion that day – the shadow without substance – was meant to be a gentle reminder to my heart and in my life: to remember the shadows, to honor the evidence of things not seen; to leave shadows of my own in my passing – hopefully, shadows of peace and compassion and grace; to have faith in the human family, that we will always take better care of each other.
Perhaps the shadow that walked with me that August day was made by the wings of an angel.
“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1