In my family, we light candles. Often a rite, sometimes a figurative nod. In either case, what results is something far greater than light.
“I will light a candle for you,” we say.
But with those words, we really mean, I love you. I miss you. Wherever you may be, I’m there, with you. I want you to achieve everything and anything, whether it is peace, friendship, solace, or success. I will pray for you. I will laugh, cry, and pace the room, if that is what it takes. I will endure some of your sadness, celebrate your kindness, grip my heart and hope for your happiness.
I will light a candle for you.
In my family, candles erase boundaries. In the shadow of a naked flame, we can be anywhere we are needed; anywhere we need to be. We light candles, because sometimes we need more than just light to close the distance between us. We say, “I’ll light a candle for you,” because it is an easy way to say all those things that we really mean.
This piece was inspired by “Memorial II,” an article in JAMA by Janet M. Torpy, MD. She writes: “Lighting candles, a ritual in many religious traditions, is an act of prayer, a moment of intention. A deliberate, conscious gesture of placing flame to wick slows time, forces reflection, and engenders stillness inside one’s heart, bringing the noise and chaos of the external world to a halt. Candles can symbolize a vigil, a lamentation, a request, gratitude, celebration, or simple union with other believers.”
My father sent me the link to the article (by link, I mean he tore it out of the journal and mailed it to me) and we both agreed, she pretty much nailed it. But it got me thinking, in our family it is perhaps something more. Maybe the difference, to me, was a simple explanation that the “other believers” are my family.
Categories: Creative Writing