Why light candles in memoriam?

Why light candles in memoriam?

While I am not what most folks would consider a spiritual person, I do entertain ideas about life's big questions. Most of these ideas are extremely difficult to put down in words. Try as I might to convey these ideas, I think I'm still just pointing in a general direction as they remain indescribable in the distance, accessible only through experience. Bare with me as I make yet another attempt to connect the dots of a constellation among the billions of stars shining in the darkness.



It's hard for me to believe, but it's been a little over four years since my husband, David, died. I will freely admit that this experience is probably one of the most amazing things I've ever lived. I want to take a moment to clarify that by saying amazing, I'm not attempting to simply make light of it all, or minimize it, or convince anyone (including me)  that it's easy or wonderful. My life and experience with David was always and still is a Master's Challenge, and I am no master of anything - except maybe procrastinating. The whole of my experience is definitely an amazing one: married to an alcoholic, raising children, discovering the absolute pinnacle of unconditional love, and then attempting to uphold it all as the world came crashing down around me... For me, amazing is usually the furthest thing from easy and involves strength, courage, and inner growth. My life with David offers me these things and ultimately, I'm gratefully in awe of what I get to learn and feel and live.



When David died, I became acutely aware of time. Not in the sense that I suddenly gained the skill of using a calendar (another thing I have yet to master). But, in the sense that it seems as though time is the only thing that separates Dave and I.... and days turn into weeks, turn into years.. There are moments when it feels as though I've aged 10 years in the four since he passed, and times when it seems like he was here just yesterday. It's surreal. But, I'm still here traveling through time and maybe he isn't? Every day that passes it seems I move through time, further from his presence. In my personal beliefs, this couldn't be further from the truth. But, it is a strong illusion that is difficult to see beyond. Lighting a candle helps to lift that veil and this is my unedited daily journal entries for the five days I lit candles in communion with David. (Spoiler: I highly recommend the experience).


Day one
Today, I decided to light a candle in memory of my husband. I will burn the candle each of the first 5 days of December which lead up to his birthday and our anniversary. I've never lit a candle in memory of someone before. I never really understood it before I did it, today. But, I'm starting to get it.

I think most folks light a solitary candle. But, I bought two along with a mirrored plate on which to place them. I'm glad I bought two because it offered both my son and me a candle to light. As I lit the first candle, my son questioned the purpose. So, I explained it was a way to remember his father. He lit the second and it gave us a chance to talk cheerfully about Daddy.

The second thing I noticed was the warmth. Years ago, shortly after becoming a widow, I stood in my kitchen staring out the window when I felt the warmth of a person standing next to me. For one fleeting moment, a rush of joy I wouldn't trade for the world. It felt like the thousands of times I had stood with him there messing about the kitchen. It was actually the steam rising out of the dishwasher on dry cycle. But, that short instance of warmth also comes with the candles as I brush by, reaching over and around them, sitting near them.

The third reason to light a candle is the visual presence. I left the candles burning on the kitchen counter while I faced away, hand washing dishes at the sink and tidying up. With every glimpse from the corner of my eye, every turn, every look.... I'm reminded that there is no separation. He is here, living within us as he always has and always will. It's easy to forget how deeply connected and bonded we are. The flickering light reminds that we are all made of the same stuff... And no matter what form we take, there is nothing that changes that....

" There is no birth, there is no death; there is no coming, there is no going; there is no same, there is no different; there is no permanent self, there is no annihilation. We only think there is." THICH NHAT HANH, No Death, No Fear

Day two
I lit the candles for company this morning, which is interesting because it suggests that yesterday's experience has encouraged me to view the light as a being. In a sense, it is true. It is energy. It gives warmth. Fire is one of the essential components to improving human quality of life throughout our history. It is fitting because my experience with Dave improved my life immeasurably.

I relit the candles this evening. They burned long this afternoon, slowly fusing together by the melting wax. This is appropriate as I feel more connected to my husband than I have in years since his passing. I feel the way he looked at me, the way he cared for me, the way he accepted me... The way he went above and beyond everyday to conquer his demons and move forward with me in peace, freedom, and unconditional love. I feel it now as I did then, just as strong as ever as I am reminded by this light that some bonds simply do not break.

Day 3 I know I cannot rely on these two small flames as a reliable heat source for my whole body. However, as I sat in the cold of morning, it occurred to me to light these candles as a heat source. I can slowly wave my hands over the flames and heat them up. It helps, but it's not enough. We are each others flames, but we must fuel a bigger fire for a true source of heat against the cold. There must be an eternal fuel source, and we must be prepared to offer relief to our partner, tending the fire alone. In fact, helping a partner prepare to tend the fire on their own is a top priority because it's going to happen. I was prepared to tend the fire temporarily, not permanently. But, the most important thing was covered. I had an infinite supply of fuel: unquestionable freedom & unconditional love... It takes practice to use it wisely.


Day 4
The memorial candlelight lent a soothing glow to the evening. This experience has given me something I've missed for years... I am unsure of my ability to accurately capture this in words. But, after a busy & exciting day, I came home to the same sweet love that kept me afloat throughout the turbulence we faced together as a couple. It's easy to think I've lost something because I miss his physical presence in that familiar form that hugged me tight and held me close. But, it's still there, every moment and I continue to learn and grow as a person from our life together. David once told me, that I had truly become part of him. I don't think I fully understood the meaning of that until he died.


When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the soul laughs for what it has found.


Day 5

Today marks David's birthday, our anniversary and the last day I plan to light the candles. As someone without much spiritual depth, I doubted this experiment would prove worthwhile.. and I have been proven wrong. I don't have strong beliefs about God and afterlife. From my perspective, the afterlife is like two sides of the same coin... On one side, we have those of us remaining alive in our current forms, and on the other side the ones we love change form. I miss that familiar form of my husband.. the one that comforted me, held me.. the one that looked like a human and shared a similar lifestyle, helping me, supporting me, and needing or wanting those same things from me. But, in reality, nothing has changed and everything remains the same as it ever was.... a continuous cycle of the Earth and the Universe.. like the water cycle, or the rock cycle, or some cosmic light show that takes billions of years to reset. We're the same as we ever were, and that's what lighting a candle reminds me.



Freedom and unconditional love are the only assets worth keeping. I may not be rich, but I'm a very wealthy being. -David Cook

About Candy Cook

I'm a homeschooling mom of two boys, blogging family travel & adventure, homeschooling, exploring nature and getting dirty in the great outdoors.

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