Reflections: Burning candles brightened Mom's day

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My mother, Blanche, burned candles frequently, especially during the latter part of her life. The peaceful glow often flickered from the candle on top of her square dining table. As her health failed, candles brought solace to Mom. One day I asked her why she liked them. Her answer was that seeing candles burn brightened her day.

Watching the flames from candles dance and leap has always been significant for me. Mom and her candles just seemed to go together.

While I pondered her love of candles as Mother's Day approached, I recognized that Mom was a candle to those around her. Her presence brightened any room. She was truly an enigma -- always an optimist. She lived in her own mental world. She faced reality by always thinking a reward waited at the end of the road. Her way of facing life was to ignore the bad and look for the good that she felt would eventually arrive.

Years ago, mothers lit candles and placed them in the window so family members who were absent could see them burning as they returned home. A burning candle always tells a story. A friend, Debra, lights candles at her home for prayer requests. You wonder what secrets they hold but will never reveal. Debra is a mom, too, and keeps a candle lit for each of her children when they are facing a challenge.

Many churches and chapels still have candles inside so people can light them for an answer to a prayer or some other reason. It's a visible sign they can see and feel.

Why does lighting a candle and watching the flame rise, fall and blink bring comfort and hope? There are many reasons. You hold a light in front of you when you're trying to find direction in the dark. Candles provide warmth, and you can better feel God's presence, somehow, through the light. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." (John 8:20)

Everyone can be a candle for somebody. You can light the passage for people by offering encouragement, comfort, a shoulder to lean on and being present when you're needed. Mothers have abundant opportunities to provide warmth, life and light.

Christians refer to John 8:20: "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." A mother provides guidance to her children. She teaches, nurtures, loves and guides her offspring while allowing him the freedom to be an individual. She leads him through the dark, often, as he attempts to find his way in life.

Candles are representative of the light and life that Jesus brings. It's no wonder that Mom loved them. She felt more alive as she sensed the presence and love of Jesus.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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