You have all lit a candle before. It’s simple. Sometimes getting a match or lighter to cooperate is tougher than lighting the candle itself. Unless, of course, you are lighting the candle for someone or something. When there is a purpose it changes your entire perspective of simply lighting a candle. It makes you think. It makes you wonder. It makes you smile. It makes you cry. If you have ever participated in a candlelight vigil of any kind you understand.
The second Sunday of every December The Compassionate Friends begins a “Worldwide Candle Lighting”event. The idea behind it is that you light a candle at 7 p.m. local time in remembrance of a child that departed us too soon. This creates a virtual 24-hour wave of light as it moves from time zone to time zone. I found out about this event about a week before it was set to happen. I thought it sounded like something neat to participate in. Not only for all the children who have gone to soon in this world, but also one that is near and dear to my heart. My niece.
I received a text message Sunday as I was getting ready for church from my older sister, who lost a daughter three years ago. Her message read,
“Today is Worldwide Candle Lighting day. We are asking that you please light a candle at 7pm (your time) in loving memory of our angel, Alicyn Grace & burn for 1 hr. It would mean so much. Thanks!”
While I had been planning to participate, I knew now that it was important that I do so. It wasn’t about me participating in the event anymore. It was about what it meant to my sister and my brother-in-law. After church I went to Walmart for what may have been my first-ever candle purchase. I stood there and looked at the candles for what seemed like ever. Minutes passed, carts pushed by as I picked a candle up and set it back down. It was about getting the right one. When you are doing something meaningful you don’t just grab the first thing you see. It has to feel right. It has to be right. Even if it is a simple candle.
After staring at candles for about 10 minutes I decided to go find a lighter and think about what I had looked at. I went back into the camping section and found a lighter. I looked around at some other things and then I decided it was time to pick “The” candle. I went back to the candles and stood there again. I picked up a white one and found a holder for it. It was a circular plate with a wide candle. Just before I walked away something caught my eye. It was a candle holder in the shape of a heart. It could only go with a red-colored candle. I put what I had away and with a smile I knew I had the right one.
That night I had a company Christmas party. I took the candle, holder and lighter with me. I was planning to get away from the party at the right time and light the candle where it would burn for one hour. At 6:14 MT I received another text message from my sister. Being in the central time zone she had already lit her candle.
This message read –
“Never knew lighting a candle could be this hard. The flicker of the fire is dancing steady…wonder if she is dancing with it. Love you guys!”
As a tear welted in my eye I responded, “You know she is.”
I started to wonder, is it really going to be hard? What is it going to be like when I light the candle. There were so many things running through my head as the Christmas party began. I stood there with a smile and carried on conversation, though part of me was never present at the party.
As we sat there going through gag gifts and laughing I continued to watch the clock. When my phone read 6:56 I excused myself and went into the office where the candle was waiting. I stood there staring at the clock with the lighter in my right hand. As the minutes ticked by I began to think about it all. Now two minutes until lighting, I was taken back to that Friday morning in the middle of a Doane College parking lot where I fell to my knees as I heard my mother’s voice say, “Allie is gone” over the phone. I remembered feeling incredibly weak…….helpless. I was three hours away and couldn’t race to my sister and give her a hug. Her and I grew close after I moved away to college. Still not sure why it took so long, but we talked a lot on the phone. Back to that Friday morning I remembered wiping tears from my face as people curiously looked on.
Finally with composure I lifted myself and walked across campus. I had just given a campus tour. Before I left Michelle, an admissions counselor, asked me how my sister and baby were doing. She knew the due date was close. Running late I smiled and said they were doing great and I had a picture to show her when I got back from the tour. It was the picture my sister sent late Thursday night after she finished the crib. It was ready to go. Now, as I made my way back to the building, I knew things weren’t so great. They were awful. The worst had happened.
I dropped off some keys at the desk and went to Michelle’s office. Her glowing smile dropped as she saw me turn the corner. She asked what was wrong. I asked if I could shut her door. She said yes and as the door clicked I lost it again. She jumped up and gave me a hug and again asked what was wrong. I told her my sister lost the baby. She cried with me.
She helped me get some things with classes squared away and advised me not to drive myself. With all due respect, Michelle, you knew I would.
Preparing the candle took me back to the moment I walked in my sister’s house where my mother and brother-in-law’s mother, Pat, stood. Not a word was said. I walked across the floor and grabbed my mother with both arms as tears poured out of my eyes. Then I gave Pat a big hug and I stood there trembling.
It took me back to the moment I walked in the hospital and didn’t want to walk into my sister’s room, but knew I had to. My family didn’t know I was making the trip back. I didn’t tell them because I didn’t want to hear there was nothing I could do and I needed to go to classes. You see, my sister carried full term and was induced to deliver stillborn. As mom grabbed the handle she looked at me and asked if I was ready. As strong as I could in a weak moment I told her I was as ready as I would ever be. When the door opened I locked eyes with my sister and made a B-line to her side. She cried when she saw me as I reached down to give her the biggest hug I ever had.
It took me back to the moment standing outside of the delivery room when the process was complete and there was nothing but silence. For a brief moment I said a prayer and over and over I said the words, “please cry, please cry, please cry”. Nothing.
It made me think about the late nights up with my sister, as she cried and asked why. I have always thought I could come up with an answer. I was speechless. There was nothing I could say…..nothing I could do but be there.
It took me back to the April 23rd graveside service. Looking at a tiny box and thinking it was something for shoes and not for my niece. The moment the balloons were released into the sky. Watching my two nephews balloons, which contained toys for their sister to play with in Heaven, bounce through a tree and somehow make it out the other side without popping.
It all came back to me. And it happened quickly. As the clock hit 7:00 I reached forward and lit the wick as a tear streamed down my face. I stood over the burning flame and stared at it. I wondered who she would be today. As I watched the flame dance, I thought back to my sister’s message and smiled. I took pictures of the burning candle. One of the pictures made it to Facebook where I wrote my sister and brother-in-law a message to let them know it was okay to let their candle go out. The light was continuing for another hour….in another time zone.
After a few minutes I walked away from the candle to rejoin the Christmas party. As we ate I went back to check on the candle. It was slowly burning, but still going strong. At the end of the hour I went back to put the candle out. As I approached the desk I found a candle burned to the holder. The heart-shaped holder overflowed and wax trickled down the desk. It had hardened and as I stood there looking at it I thought of what it could resemble. It was a single tear stream. Perhaps it was a sign that she is happy. She is in a better place. While the candle that burned Sunday evening is no longer burning there remains a strong flame burning for her in my heart.
If you ever have a chance to take part in something like this I would encourage you to do so. It allows you to remember, to honor and to support those who are lost and their families. While these young people have left us far too soon they will never be forgotten.
In Loving memory of Alicyn Grace Hosick (04/18/08) – “It’s amazing how much it hurts to lose someone you never got to hear cry…”