Lighting a candle is usually simple, but when I lit one in memory of my niece during the Worldwide Candle Lighting® this year, I found it to be very difficult.
As I was getting ready for church, I received a text message from my 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 7:00 p.m. in loving memory of our angel, Alicyn Grace and let it burn for one hour. It would mean so much. Thanks!”
I had to participate. It was about what it meant to my sister and brother-in-law. After church, I went to Walmart for what may have been my first-ever candle purchase. I just stood there looking at the candles. Minutes passed, carts pushed by as I picked a candle up and set it back down. When you are doing something meaningful, you don’t just grab the first thing you see. It has to feel right.
I finally picked up a white candle and a holder, but 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, and with a smile, knew I had the right one.
That night I took the candle with me to a company Christmas party. I was planning to get away from the party at the right time and light the candle where it could burn for one hour. At 6:14 p.m., I received another text message from my sister. “Never knew lighting a candle could be this hard. The flicker of the fire is dancing steadily . . . wonder if she is dancing with it. Love you guys!”
As a tear filled my eye, I responded, “You know she is.” I started to wonder if this was going to be hard. There were so many things running through my head as the Christmas party began. I stood there with a smile and carried on a conversation although part of me was never present.
As we went through gag gifts, I continued to watch the clock. When my phone read 6:56 p.m., 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, memories filled my thoughts.
With 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. We grew close after I moved to college. Not sure why it took so long, but we talked a lot on the phone. Back on that Friday morning, I remember wiping tears from my face as people curiously looked on.
I finally got up and walked across the campus where I had just given a tour. Before I’d left, Michelle, an admissions counselor, had asked how my sister and her baby were doing. She knew the due date was close. Running late, I’d smiled and said they were doing great and that I had a picture to show her when I got back. It was the picture my sister had sent late Thursday night after she had finished the crib. 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, and after I’d closed her door, I lost it again. She jumped up and gave me a hug as I told her my sister had lost the baby.
Preparing the candle took me back to the moment I walked into 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 ran down my face. Then I gave Pat a big hug and stood there trembling.
It took me back to the moment I walked into the hospital and didn’t want to go into my sister’s room but knew I had to.
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 be 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 beeline 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 only silence. For a moment I said a prayer with the words, “Please cry,” but there was nothing.
It made me think about the late nights up with my sister, as she cried and asked why. I had no answers. There was nothing I could say . . . nothing I could do.
It took me back to the April 23 graveside service, looking at a tiny box and thinking it was something for shoes and not for my niece. It took me to the moment the balloons were released into the sky, as I watched my two nephews’ balloons, filled with toys for their sister to play with in heaven, bounce through a tree and out the other side without popping.
It all came back to me. And it happened quickly. As the clock hit 7:00 p.m., 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 as 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.
In Loving memory of Alicyn Grace Hosick (04/18/08).
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