“Mom, what’re the candles for?"
“To remember my sisters, and my daddy who are in Heaven.”
“Aww momma, I wish they were here with us, so we can see them and talk to them.”
“Me too baby girl, me too. I wish they were here.”
My face flushed with heat as tears welled in my eyes.
And this is how the conversation went with my 6-year-old daughter after we lit candles during our Thanksgiving meal.
I lit one candle for my sister Angie, one for my sister Sharon, and one for my dad. Each to honor and remember them because they are no longer here with us.
And the lighting of the candles was the start of a new tradition.
But why hadn’t I thought of this before?
I don’t know.
Maybe it was too soon.
Maybe I was fearful.
Fearful that I would be overcome with grief, and it would ruin the entire day.
Because healing takes time.
And grief is strange.
And it’s so unpredictable.
With grief, you never know what you’ll get.
At any moment, memories flood your heart, and you feel as if you could burst.
And another moment you can feel a quiet resolve.
But this year, I just wanted a simple way to remember and honor them. It felt like the right time to start. To find ways to include them, and ways to acknowledge how they are still here if only in our thoughts and hearts.
I thought about it for several months prior. I tested it out even, by making a chocolate éclair cake for my sister Sharon’s birthday. Something I watched her make when she was in high school and me in elementary. It was a way of remembering her on her birthday. My littles haven’t stopped talking about Aunt Sharon’s cake now. And to hear them speak her name out loud fills me with joy.
You see, my youngest two kids were either too young or weren’t born when my sisters and my dad died. That thought alone makes my heart ache because I wish they were here. To get to know them and to love on them.
So, the opportunity to create a new tradition and ritual during the holidays for our loved ones, not only created space for grief, but it created space to just mention their names, to tell the kids stories about them, and to show the kids how to grieve and cope with grief in healthy ways during the holidays.
Though I lit three candles, it wasn’t enough to account for all the loss I experienced.
Yet it was a start.
“If I were to light a candle for everyone we’ve lost, I’d burn the house down,” I joked with my niece Nicole!
Yet, besides these logistics, this was the start of something beautiful to help with remembering and honoring loved ones during the holidays. And I’m excited about what the future holds with this new tradition.
The thing is, just because our loved ones are no longer with us on this side of Heaven, it doesn’t change who they were to us then and who they are to us now.
My sisters are still my sisters. And my dad is still my dad, my nephew is still my nephew, my niece is still my niece, my aunt is still my aunt, my uncles are still my uncles, my son is still my son, and my babies are still my babies. The distance between heaven and earth doesn’t change that.
And I want my kids to know them as I know them.
And what greater time than the special times during the holidays?
So, if you have loved ones who have gone on before you, light a candle to remember and include them during the holidays. Make it a new tradition.
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