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December 9, 2011

An Honorable, Helpful Gift

Photo, Ysabel de la Rosa
It's common knowledge that the first holiday  without a family member or friend is indescribably rough. The absence of that person is much larger than any "elephant in the room" could ever be.

As our family approached our first Thanksgiving dinner without our mother, I decided to "confront" her absence. I set her customary place at the table and, instead of a plate, I placed a tall beautiful blue candle there. Its flame gently danced while we ate and conversed.

Since then I've given candles to friends who face a first holiday without a loved one. They've shared with me that the candle served as a kind of anchor for them. The candle represents this earthly life, its structure and solidity, while the flame speaks for spirit. The candle gives light, yet the light is not of the candle, even though, for a while, that candle is the light's home.

Yesterday, one of those friends told me she is including the candle I gave her some years ago in her Christmas decorations. The candle has become a part of her holidays now. It speaks to both the continued absence and memorial presence of her daughter.

I usually give my friends a poem with the candle, to read aloud or silently. And I encourage them to be open with friends and family about lighting the candle for their loved one, inviting others to acknowledge the absence as well as share special memories of that person.  Last year, I placed a photo of my sister next to "her" candle when our remaining family gathered last Christmas Day.

Photo Ysabel de la Rosa
I invite you to adopt a candle and let it shine for your loved one at your holiday table or gathering.  If you have a friend who is facing their first Hanukkah, Christmas or other family gathering without a loved one, the right candle can be a helpful and meaningful gift. for you to do for them. You can find a candle whose colors, composition, and scent have some visual or creative connection with the person who has passed on. You can find wonderful candles that are not expensive. Some of my favorite candle-buying spots are: Pier 1, Big Lots, and Tuesday Morning. Also consider buying a decorative candle holder, which will be permanent, and your friend can continue to place a candle there for years to come.

As for a poem to go with the candle, choose something that is meaningful to you, to your loved one that has passed on, or to the friend to whom you are giving the candle.

With this post, I've included a card I designed to be given with a memorial candle. The image here should have high enough resolution to print, but if you would like a high-resolution PDF file, contact me through this blog or my Website, and I will send it to you.  The card is 5.5 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall and includes space at the bottom for you to add a personal note. Please feel free to share this with others as we honor and remember those we love at this special time of year.

Photo by Delectus of iStockPhoto

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