The Day of Darkness: Bring in the Candles

On May 19, 1780, the sky over New England turned dark during what should have been daylight hours.  The darkness was observed as far south as New Jersey and as far north as Portland, Maine.  It took several hours for the gloom to pass; in many places it persisted until night.  Candles were needed to conduct normal activities.  According to the Wikipedia account, the darkness is thought to have been the result of forest fires, fog, and cloud cover.   Many people thought the world was ending.

Abraham Davenport

Abraham Davenport

In Connecticut, a member of the legislature, Abraham Davenport, became famous for his response to his colleagues’ fears that the Day of Judgment had arrived.  When they proposed adjourning the legislature, Davenport answered as follows:

“I am against adjournment.  The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not.  If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty.  I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”

Davenport’s response can be taken as inspiration for all of us to persist despite obstacles.  I also take the Day of Darkness as a metaphor for the decline that we will all face if we live long enough.  There will be a time when sight darkens, hearing fades, and limbs weaken.  We will have difficulty doing what we have always been accustomed to do, and will increasingly need assistance. Should we give up, choosing to adjourn from what we had hoped to accomplish?  Not if there are candles—external aids—available!  I see my 87-year-old mother as someone who persists at what she feels called to do—manage her household and provide care for my dad as his mental abilities worsen—despite significant health issues.  I hope that in my own Day of Darkness, I’ll have the same courage as both she and Abraham Davenport, doing what I believe I should be doing as best I can.


About Bob Ritzema

I am a fourth-generation American of Dutch ancestry and am trained as a clinical psychologist. In 2012, I retired from Methodist University in North Carolina to return to . Michigan to help family, and, in 2023, I started again with a move to Milwaukee to be near my children. I maintain a part-time therapy practice. I can be reached at
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