Luminese = emit light
Bioluminescence is the emission of light by living organisms. In the ocean, bioluminescence is the rule rather than the exception; current research indicates 76% of the macroscopic ocean organisms exhibit some type of bioluminescence (https://www.nature.com/articles/srep45750). One of the most stunning things I have ever seen was the bioluminescent trail left by dolphins in the warm night time waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands. It was too dark to see the dolphins themselves but we knew where they were because they left a trail of light in their wake.
The light trail was caused by dinoflagellates (marine plankton) that emit a glow when they are jostled. The chemistry of dinoflagellate bioluminescence is only partially understood. Ultimately it seems to be caused by an influx of protons within the cell that drops the pH. (https://scripps.ucsd.edu/labs/mlatz/bioluminescence/dinoflagellates-and-red-tides/dinoflagellate-bioluminescence/).
Our eyes traced the dolphin’s path as they frolicked around the boat, jumping in and out of the ship’s wake, which also left a bioluminescent trail. We knew the dolphins had jumped when their glowing trail momentarily disappeared and we knew where they re-entered the water when we saw the waters light up again. As they interacted with their environment, the dolphins created a glowing trail of light that was truly amazing.
Some people are like that….. As they interact with those in their environment they leave a glowing trail of light and love that is truly amazing. Ralph and Sheila Aardema are such people.
I first met Mr. Aardema in an interview in his office at Ben Lomond High School in Ogden, UT. I was fresh out of college and looking to hone my interview skills in Utah, where I had NO intention of working, so that when I interviewed in Oregon, where I planned to spend my life, I would be practiced, polished and sharp. At the end of the interview, Mr. Aardema invited me to teach at Ben Lomond. “Our kids need you,” he said. The Spirit of the Lord in that office that day was so strong, I could not turn him down. Overpowered by the light and love emanating from that man, I signed the contract. Gone were my plans to return to my beloved homeland; I stayed in Ogden and the course of my life changed forever.
While I was teaching at Ben Lomond, Mr. Aardema’s beloved wife, Sheila, developed cancer. Treatment necessitated a trip to Washington State where she lay isolated in a bubble, fighting for her life as medical professionals, hoping to save her life, brought her to the edge of death. She was isolated but not alone; her faithful, loyal, loving, light-filled companion was at her side.
Mr. Aardema was in Washington with his wife but he was also with us, at a pep assembly in a high school gym in Utah. In the days before fiber optics, cell phones, the Internet, he orchestrated a landline connection from to hospital room to the gymnasium. I sat in the stands with the students listening to his cheerful voice, once again awed at his ability to emit light and love. Hundreds, HUNDREDS, of rowdy high school kids, many from rough, inner-city homes, packed on bleachers in an old, smelly, drafty high school gymnasium….not the traditional setting for spiritual experiences. Yet the Spirit of the Lord was there. We all felt it. We felt in the love he felt for us. We felt it in the love we felt for him.
“Give me an ‘S’” he said at the end of his message.
“S,” we roared.
“Give me a ‘C’!”
“Give me a ‘O’!”
“Give me a ‘T’!”
“Give me a ‘S’!”
“GO SCOTS!!!” we yelled with him.
Though he was over a thousand miles away, his force empowered, inspired, and unified us. I felt light and love in that gym that day as I had rarely felt it before and have rarely felt it since. Powerful. Overflowing. Radiant..
Ralph and Sheila Aardema lit the lives Ben Lomond High School’s Scots. Serving as president of a stake in Ogden and later as president of a mission in eastern Europe, President and Sister Aardema loved and lit the lives of those with whom they associated across the town, across the country, and, literally, across the world. And they are still leaving trails of light wherever they go.
Tanah received her endowment in the Ogden Temple Thursday. When the temple guide told her “Sister Aardema will be in to give you instructions” my heart leapt. Could it be? How many Sister Aardemas can there be in Ogden? Surely, this will be my Sister Aardema.
And it was. Warm and friendly, Sister Sheila Aardema lit up the room as she told Tanah about the temple covenants she was about to make. She then chatted with us amicably as she escorted us to the ordinance room where, smiling, she left us. A few moments later President Aardema appeared, with Lance in tow. He had found Lance waiting in the chapel and brought him up to the session a little early so he could join Tanah and I.
After seating Lance President Aardema warmly shook Tanah’s hand. Then mine. “Hello beautiful,” he said to me, clasping my hand with both of his, his eyes meeting mine. And I felt beautiful. In much the same way that good lighting softens and flatters features, I felt a better, more beautiful person in his presence.
Bioluminescence...the emission of light by life. Glowing trails left in dark waters by noble creatures. Light….literal and symbolic. Dolphins’ movements catalyze a chemical reaction that emits light. Aardemas’ actions catalyze a spiritual reaction that enlightens. The source of both lights is the same: the Light and Life of this world, even Jesus. As Creator, He caused the chemistry. As the Christ, He is the Light.
Anything that disturbs the water in dinoflagellate-laden waters can provoke a radiant response. Glowing trails are not limited to dolphins. Glowing trails are not limited to Aardemas either. Like dolphins (and Aardemas) we can leave light wherever we go, if we, like they, access the Source.
Christ is the Source of light, all light. May we remember, reflect, and radiate His light, in this Christmas season and throughout the year. #LightTheWorld.