Epiphany: This Brightness That You Bear

Image: This Brightness That You Bear © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany, Years ABC: Matthew 2.1-12

They set out; and there, ahead of them,
went the star that they had seen at its rising,
until it stopped over the place where the child was.
—Matthew 2.9

Many of you know that my amazing husband, Garrison Doles, died unexpectedly at the beginning of Advent, after experiencing complications during what we had anticipated would be a fairly routine surgery in mid-November. (I invite you to read this remembrance and blessing I wrote for Gary, if you haven’t seen it.) I am so grateful for all those who encircled us from near and far while Gary was in the hospital, and who are continuing to encompass our family during this time of stunning heartbreak. Every prayer, every word, every good thought has been such a tremendous gift in this dark season.

Gary and I are astoundingly fortunate in our families, who in these past weeks have held the light for us in ways that I can barely begin to thank them for. But this Christmas, I wanted to make the attempt, to at least try to offer up some words to honor the extraordinary lengths they have gone to in order to walk this journey with us. I wrote a blessing for them; today’s image is for them as well. I gave these to them on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day I also shared the blessing and artwork with those who joined me in the online Illuminated Advent Retreat, by way of thanks for how they traveled with me through a season that was so different than I had anticipated. For Epiphany, I want to share this with you. For the light you bear in this world: thank you. If you are in a dark season of your own, or know someone who is, may this come as a gift and a prayer that you will receive the light you need.

Blessings and gratitude to you as Epiphany draws near.

This Brightness That You Bear
A Blessing for My Family

This blessing
hardly knows what to say,
speechless as it is
not simply
from grief
but from the gratitude
that has come with it—

the thankfulness that sits
among the sorrow
and can barely begin
to tell you
what it means
not to be alone.

This blessing
knows the distances
you crossed
in person
in prayer
to enter into
days of waiting,
nights of long vigil.

It knows the paths
you traveled
to be here
in the dark.

Even in the shadows
this blessing
sees more than it can say
and has simply
come to show you
the light
that you have given

not to return it
to you
not to reflect it
back to you
but only to ask you
to open your eyes
and see
the grace of it,
the gift that shines
in this brightness
that you bear.

—Jan Richardson

[2017 update: this blessing appears in Jan’s latest book, The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief.]

P.S. I come bearing a few more Epiphany gifts for you…

At my Sanctuary of Women site, you can find a brand-new retreat that I’ve designed for Women’s Christmas, which some folks celebrate on Epiphany. To learn more about Women’s Christmas and download the retreat (at no cost), click the image or link below.

Women’s Christmas: The Shimmering Hours

For previous reflections for Epiphany, including “Blessing of the Magi,” click these images or the titles below.

Epiphany: Blessing of the Magi

Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel

Epiphany: Where the Map Begins

Feast of the Epiphany: Blessing the House

In celebration of the season, the Advent discount on annual subscriptions to Jan Richardson Images (the website that makes my work available for use in worship) will be available through Epiphany Day (January 6). For info, visit:

Jan Richardson Images

[To use the image “This Brightness That You Bear,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

19 Responses to “Epiphany: This Brightness That You Bear”

  1. Rev. Cynthia Wood Says:

    Dear Mrs Richardson, please accept my condolences at the news of the death of your beloved. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  2. Sue Says:

    Dear Jan,
    I was so sorry to hear of Garrison’s passing. It is good to see you back on your site, supported by those who love you. You offer beautiful gifts to the church at large. Thanks for this lovely blessing. It is something to be cherished.

  3. Carol Dennison Says:

    Thank you for this reminder of the powerful light of prayer support that encircles us in our times of darkness as well as times of joy. I have been blessed by it many times and this thank you applies to all those who support others in this way. May the New Year bring you blessings.

  4. Lynn Rhoades Says:

    Oh my Jan…I am so saddened to hear this news. I know you through your writing, images, and one of your MDiv. school chums…David S.
    How heartbreaking to lose so quickly your beloved…sweetheart…husband. May you know peace and comfort in the days ahead.

  5. Donna LEAVITT Says:

    Dear jan
    You have been on my heart,therefore in my prayers.the agony of losing a person you loved so deeply is a knife cut to the center of your heart. Your blessing,paintings and wisdom have helped me so much,I hope that you are surrounded by loving people ….just Thankyou and your in my prayers

  6. Linda M. Goddard Says:

    Oh My! To risk opening one’s heart again after it has been bruised, battered, betrayed. To go walking around in the world with heart and eyes closed will not contribute to the growing good of the world, so what is one to do but keep on keeping on.

  7. Maureen Says:

    What a beautiful blessing, Jan. May peace be with you, knowing you are much loved.

  8. Sandi Billy Says:

    Dear Jan, I’m so very sorry for your loss. You’ve been in my thoughts and prayers since your first note. Shortly after that, I came across your words that had been very special in my life some time ago, and I paraphrase them here – “If you could see the journey whole, you might never undertake it; might never dare take the first step. Call it one of the mercies of the road, that we see it only by stages as it opens before us. There is nothing to do but to go, and by our going take the vows the pilgrim takes; to be faithful to the next step . . .” I hope the creative spirit within you that has brought comfort and inspiration and encouragement to so many, will blossom the same in your life.

  9. Jo Alexander Says:

    Dear Jan,

    The knowledge of your loss is an agonizing thought that has gnawed at my soul since I read your terrible news a few weeks ago. I keep wondering why it had to happen. Why did such an event come to you during the sacred time of Advent? I think of you as second Emmanuel of sorts, since Advent is a time that you both hollowed out, and filled up, for me through your lovely book, Night Visions. I do understand that there is no way through grief, except, well, right through it. I know you will make that journey – and I pray that the strength you have offered others with your writing and art returns to you a thousand fold.

    And thank you for sharing this Blessing, I shall print it out and tuck it into the pages in Night Visions about making sheets soft.

    Peace be with you.

  10. charlene kammerer Says:

    Dearest Jan, what a luminous blessing, born out of such pain, grief, and loss. For you to offer a sliver of light in this time of darkness in your life and heart, is such a gift. My prayers for you are daily, and I pray that you are encompassed by such love and accompaniment in these days that you will never feel alone. Love and sustaining grace come to you in these days.

  11. Sandra Says:

    Dear Jan, Thankyou for sharing your amazing blessing of grief and love of travelling with your pain. Keeping you in my praayers as you tread another path without your beloved, your words and art are such a blessing to me. With much love and God’s blessings be upon you.

  12. Tina Warren Says:

    My heart was breaking for you when I received the news of Garrison’s sudden death. It was just a few weeks before that, that we were listening to him playing his guitar at the retreat at Genesis and then at Trinity. You both are amazing people. I say that because his spirit is not only with the Lord but also in your heart. I feel that you are kindred spirits.

    We have been praying for you at Trinity. I wanted to send to a card but I did not have your address. My love and prayers are with you everyday. If you should need anything, I mean anything, please call me at 413-782-9398.

    Thank you for sharing you blog with us. The Painted Prayerbook I will treasure forever. I send you all my love and a giant HUG from the bottom of my heart.

  13. Marianne Abene Says:

    My sincere condolences to you, Jan. I lost my father, unexpectedly, on Oct. 31, 2013. Thank you for sharing your gratitude from amidst your grief, and creating your own epiphanies for us!

  14. Martha Jane Petersen Says:

    In Advent we often read from Isaiah about “the people who have walked in darkness.” Truly you have been in the darkness of grief alongside the approach of the celebration of the One who is the Light of the world. May you experience the depth of that Light shining on you at this bewildering, heartbreaking time.
    I first met you at an Emory workshop long ago and again at Holy Ground in Asheville. I have become a fabric artist since we first met; you will find images of my work on my website. Your work indeed has changed since Night Visions and I love it! Would love to meet you again. In the meantime, go with God.

  15. Gerry Gospe Says:

    Thank you, Jan, for your generosity of spirit and talent during this Holy Time. Your love and care enter my heart and soul. I send blessings and prayers in return.
    Gerry Gospe

  16. Jane Allen Middleton Says:

    Dear Jan, I learned just tonight of Gary’s tragic death and am still stunned by what seems impossible. Images flit through my mind of you and Gary in a seamless spiral of creativity. May his spirit continue to live through you and may you continue to be enfolded in God’s loving embrace of comfort. Thank you for this profound blessing. Jane

  17. Ann Hammon Says:

    I am just coming to know your work. I, too, am a widow. There will be ugly days and there will be days when getting out of bed will be the bravest thing you do all day. Peace and strength come as gifts. Try to accept them if only for a day.

  18. Karen Pidcock Says:

    Reading just now, 3 years, nearly 4 mos. since losing my beloved suddenly, after 52 years marriage, recalls the GRACE which accompanied me through the depths of grief, and continues through the gifts so abundantly surrounding me in friends’ support, loving family, daily opportunities to keep on keeping on. Thanks to each of you who’ve expressed your wisdom, your hearts, your trust in this GRACE!

  19. Mary Stickel Says:

    It is 7 years this Christmas, after 59 years of marriage that I began to walk life’s path as a widow. This journey has had many sad and lonely days, but Grace accompanies and supports me as I regain my balance. I have received so many blessings all my life, and continue to do so.- The only thing I can leave in this world is love. It is amazing that in trying to follow this mantra, I receive more blessings. I smile when I remember my mother asking everyone she would see, -” What has been important to you in Life ?” It’s simple, just Love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *