Sunday, February 12, 2012

Remembrance Candle

            I know the holidays are way over, but I wanted to share a Christmas experience I had with my children, when we lit a candle in remembrance of Lisa.

            The monthly grief group my girls and I attend has a holiday service where the family lights a candle for the person we are remembering.  Our family was not able to make the event this year, but a one of the widows thought of us and took Lisa’s candle and dropped it off at our house. 

            On Christmas Eve, I always let the girls open a couple of gifts as a way to get Christmas started –  truth be told, I basically get the night off as they are busy playing with new toys.  It’s a win win for both the girls and me.  This year, I sit them in a circle with their gifts to my left.  I pull out the candle and let them know that tonight we will be starting the holidays by lighting this candle to symbolize mom.  The holiday music behind us sets the perfect tone as Bing Crosby croons "Silent Night".

            I pull out the matches as the girls sit on the floor looking at me.  I put match to box and strike.

            “Tonight, we will start Christmas remembering our Lisa,” I say and light the wick.  “As we light this candle, let it be a symbol….”

            “Oooh, can I blow out the match?” Haley asks.

            “No Haley. I’ll blow it out,” I say and try again.  “As we light this…”

            “How come she gets to blow it out?”  asks Kelly.

            “She’s not. No one is blowing it out, let’s focus…”

            “Me me me me me.” my three-year-old, Molly, joins in.

            I blow out the match to end the discussion. “Girls, please, this is about mom.”

            “I wanna say something about mom.” Kelly says.

            “Sure Kelly… I was… talking first though, trying to say some…”

            “Are we done? Is it time to open presents?” Molly asks.

            “Hey Dad, If I say something first, can I open up a gift first?” Haley asks.

            “No! That’s not fair! Dad said I was going to say something first.  Right Dad?”

            “Girls, everyone stop,” I pick up the candle.  “Can’t we just focus a little for the sake of mom?” I pause, holding the candle, waiting for them to self realize their insensitivity.

            “Dad, careful, you shouldn’t hold that candle so close to your face.” says Haley.

            “Hey can I at least blow out the candle.” says Kelly.

            “No, me me me.” says Molly.

            I watch them fighting and bickering, so I decide to try a different approach. 

“Who wants to open up presents?”

            A chorus of “I do” explode with hands shooting into the air, accompanied by three of the sweetest faces and a look of… well, of kids about to open presents at Christmas.

After the girls are playing with their new toys, I go into my bedroom and redo the candle ceremony – party for one.  About 20 minutes later, Kelly comes wandering into my room holding Tinkerbelle, flying her through the air.  She sees I have re-lit candle and there’s a new burnt match on the side.

“Shoot, you blew out another match, I wanted to try it.” Kelly says.

            “Here,” I say and reach over and light a match.  Her eyes widen and a big inhale is followed by an even bigger exhale as she blows enough air to knock out 50 matches.  She picks up Tinkerbelle and flies her out of the room.  I sit back and watch the candle when Haley and Molly come running in.

            “Kelly said she was able to blow out a match to remember mom.  Can we do it also?” Haley says.

            “It wasn’t to remember…yeah sure.”  I pick up the box and strike the match for Haley.

            “Love you Mom, miss you.” whwhwhwwhhhh

            Next match for Molly.

            “Misssss you.” pthpthpththh  “Another one, another one!”

            “No Molly, just one,” I say, as they both leave faster than when they came in.

            My remembrance candle ended up reminding me, not to try to have the kids grieve like I do.  It also reminds me, I need to go with the flow, as where I think I may be failing, it might just be that I am creating a different tradition that could end up being better than what I originally had in mind.


  1. Very profound, I too have issues trying to make my 13 and 9 year old talk about their father, or grieve like I do - then I realize that everyone grieves in their own way, especially kids. I guess as long as they know that I am here for them to grieve in any fashion they are comfortable with, then we all may make it through this.

  2. a beautiful post and a good reminder that our kids are not going to grieve the way we do or the way we think they "should". sounds like they each got something out of the candle ceremony even if it didn't go quite as you envisioned! They are lucky to have a dad who is willing to "go with the flow"!

  3. I had to laugh....I know this wasn't meant to be funny, but I have four kids and have had the same experience. Trying to do something with them that I think will have meaning and something they will remember and all they want to do is their own thing. It is so frustrating, but you are right, they grieve in their own way. I am almost jealous of HOW they grieve. They can cry and be sad and a moment later they are smiling and laughing. They are amazing little people and we are so lucky to have them through these tough times. I don't know how I would do this without them. Thank you for your words tonight, I feel better now knowing that my kids aren't the only ones that don't always cooperate!

  4. Delightful post! Brought a smile to my face:)Such a sweet story!

  5. I love this post. I also learned this lesson when my four year old rejected the idea of sending a balloon to heaven on Daddy's birthday. He told me (with all the exasperation a four year old can muster), "balloons can't go to heaven mommy. they can't get through outer space without popping." So much for that sweet tradition....:)