Friday, December 19, 2014

Candle Lighting

This past Sunday, we attended The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting ceremony. It's held annually on the 2nd Sunday in December from 7-8pm.

Needless to say, it's an emotional experience. I found myself staring in awe at the large number of candles lit around the room. Sad, and yet comforting. Comforting in knowing we are not alone, yet sad because there are others experiencing the same kind of loss. It is a reluctant camaraderie, but one that binds us together in hope and community.

Our particular group met before the 7pm lighting to share in a potluck meal. It's been a wonderful time to meet. There are no pretenses as to why we're there, and there's no expectation to be cheerful. It's okay to just be. To be cheerful if we feel like it or to cry if we feel like it. It's a recognition that the holidays are tough because someone we love, our child, is missing. It's the acknowledgement that no matter how many years have gone by since the loss of our child(ren), there will forever remain an empty spot in the family.

We lit our candles and spoke our children's names. There is nothing more precious, or comforting, than speaking their name. Several in our group also recently ordered stones with each of our children's names on them, and they were amazing to see and hold during the service. We began the service by lighting five specific candles. Our chapter leader lit the candles and read the following: (written by Darcie D Sims and Sherry L Williams)

As we light these five candles in honor of our loved ones,
We light one for our grief,
one for our courage,
one for our memories,
one for our love,
and one for our hope.
This candle represents our grief.
The pain of losing you is intense.
It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.
This candle represents our courage;
To confront our sorrow,
To comfort each other, and
To change our lives.
This candle is in your memory.
Remembering the times we laughed, the times we cried.
The times we were angry with each other.
The silly things you did, and
The caring and joy you gave us.
This candle is the light of love.
As we enter this holiday season, day by day we cherish
the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved
for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us.
This candle is the light of hope.
It reminds us of love and memories of you that are ours forever.
May the glow of the flame be our source of hopefulness now and forever.
We love you.

I loved the idea of lighting five candles, one each for our grief, courage, memories, love, and hope. However, I have to take difference at the glow of the flame being our source of hopefulness. For the Christian, the source of our hope is Jesus Christ. The hope of eternity, found only in Jesus, is what gives me the strength, comfort, and courage to continue this earthly life until my life is done. 

Our candles lit, we watched a slide show of our loved ones as soothing music accompanied their precious photos. We shared poems, memories, and tips for getting through the holidays. The hour passed quickly for the remembrance of our beloved children, and it was time to blow out our candles. It seems like such a simple thing, to blow out a candle. But it can be painful, as it feels as yet another ending, another good-bye. Thankfully, I had just read a Compassionate Friends leadership post on Facebook that spoke of ending the service and the mixed emotions that can accompany blowing out the candles. It was endearing to me, and I shared it with those in attendance. It said, "Remember that we are not extinguishing their flame, we are pushing their light and their love into the world." 

I found this statement to be quite comforting, and it gave me the strength I needed to blow out my candle. There were many tears, many hugs, and much hope at the end of the service. We gathered around in a circle and took turns bidding good-night to our kids. For whatever reason, I hate saying goodnight to Matt, so I always end by saying, "I love you, Matt. See you later."

As we drove home, I was thankful for the support and compassion of The Compassionate Friends group. It has been said that the time with our children, no matter their age at their death, would never have been enough for us, but yet we can be thankful for "the little while." With tears running down my face on the drive home, I was able to say, "Thanks for the little while." 

Finally, as I stated earlier, there is nothing more comforting for bereaved parents than hearing their child(ren)'s name(s). If you didn't participate in the candle lighting ceremony around the world, just know that you can light a candle any time, any where in memory of their precious child(ren). If you do, would you please let that parent know? It would make their day, I'm sure of it.

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