At this time of year, almost anywhere you may go, you can see holiday lights. Sparkling lights adorn the evergreen tree in the mall parking lot, as well as decorating doorways and front lawns in your neighborhood. Personally, I’m partial to the blue lights on our Palm tree in front of our house.
Lights also play a major role in the Jewish celebration of Chanukah, the winter festival of lights. In Japan, the celebration of Christmas is not necessarily for religious reasons, nor is it much of a commercial holiday. However, their outside Christmas light displays are amazing.
But lights are not just illuminating the outdoors. Two weeks ago, I attended a remembrance service sponsored by the local hospice. Each of us that gathered there had lost a loved one. Some people had lost someone as far back as twenty years while some as recent as a few days before.
Inside the church four candles were lit- one represented grief, the second courage, the third one for our memories, and the fourth for our love. One of the hospice staff lit his individual candle, while saying the names of the people he was honoring and a fond memory about them. He then passed the light to the next person and we each in turn did the same. I’m not going to lie, it was difficult, yet very cathartic.
Inside my home, I lit candles the past 4 Sundays on our advent wreath. These lights remind me that a baby was born long ago to be with us, to save us, to stay with us. Celebrating that miraculous birthday gives me strength and hope through each aspect of my life.
Our own birthdays are another occasion with candlelight. My mom’s fell on December 15. She loved éclairs more than cake. I remember the last birthday we celebrated. She was in a nursing home for physical rehab after her first hospital stay. She finally had her appetite and I wanted to bring her an éclair.
It sounds easy enough. However, around here, eclairs are not all made the same. Some only have a fluffy, frosting cream instead of the yummy custard we had up north. Anyway… I finally had found a bakery. My daughter and I brought it to her, along with a little battery operated candle that she could make a wish on. We sang to her, and kept the candle going the rest of the night. Little did I know, she would be gone in 4 weeks to the day of that birthday.
Last year, I was too depressed to celebrate her birthday. But this year, I bought an éclair, lit a candle, and we celebrated my mom.
Glimmering lights and candles are used for remembrances and celebrations. In that sense, I feel that a person’s love for us can also be a light in our life. When someone passes away, their light may flicker, but it is never really snuffed out. The source of the light is just a bit further away, and our loving memories keep the flame burning.
We are now about to usher in 2017. Many countries celebrate the new year with fireworks, firecrackers, and bells ringing. While I was growing up, my mother insisted that I always be home with her on New Year’s Eve. She believed that if the whole family was together at that time, there would be good fortune in the new year. When I married, and moved further away, I would call her right after the ball dropped in Times Square and wish her happy new year in Japanese – “Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu”. (One of the few Japanese phrases I know). I did this every year until she passed away. I so miss that. (I also miss the time when I could stay awake past midnight.)
In THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM(TLCB), one of the featured holidays is the New Year celebration(Oshogatsu). Yuriko’s Papa settled his business finances for the year, they cleaned the house, New Year decorations were put up, and Yuriko helped her relatives prepare their special food for the New Year celebration which lasted from December 31st through January 3rd.
I feel that the sentiment from this paragraph of Yuriko’s celebration in TLCB echoes what I hope 2017 will bring:
I took Papa’s hand as the temple bell began to strike. It rang out 108 times. Each toll of the bell was intended to symbolize the release of a sin or bad habit, giving a fresh start to the New Year. But with each bong I sat wishing, “Peace, peace, peace…”
I wish you a peaceful New Year filled with much joy and light with your loved ones!
Also linking up at Coffee For Your Heart.
20 thoughts on “Light the Lights and Ring the Bells”
I’m slow to respond but I’m especially glad I took time to read this one. What a warm, sweet post.
One of my fond memories of this season…my mom, sister, niece, and I lit the Advent wreath in one of our church services. That was special. I also asked family and friends to share memories of Scotty and I’m typing them up to give to my kids and to enjoy myself. I hope more stories come in.
I’m glad to hear that you are able to celebrate special days again in memory of your mom. She will always be a special light in your life. The Hospice service must have been very moving. So nice of them to arrange.
Your palm is lovely. The blue lights make it stand out from the rest. Thanks for sharing your photo. I was given an indoor palm this summer for my glassed in porch. I didn’t string it with Christmas lights, although I did decorate it. That was fun!
Happy New Year!
Thank you so much, Linda. There’s something so sacred about lighting the church Advent wreath. I think that’s a wonderful idea about family and friends sharing memories about Scotty. Memories are precious links to our loved ones. Oh, I’d love to see a picture of your decorated palm. My mom decorated her indoor palm(artificial) with small stuffed animals one year😊💗 Wishing you a blessed,joyous, and creative 2017! Love you💗
Dear Joan, thank you so much! Yes, it is one of their many thoughtful services to the families who are missing their loved ones. Homemade eclairs sounds scrumptious 😊 Wishing you many blessings in 2017!! ❤
You are so sweet! I love the hospice ceremony of remembering those who’ve passed away. I’m glad it was helpful to you. You’re right eclairs are different in different places. When I was a teenager, my friend’s mother made us miniature eclairs. Wow! They were yummy. May God’s peace be with you and grow during 2017.
Believe in You
Never Give Up
So beautiful. xo
Thank you so much Caroline. Wishing you a blessed New Year! ❤
Lovely post, Kathleen. The pain of losing her will lessen, or at least be absorbed into your psyche and then you’ll have peace. My mother’s fun thing to do on New Year’s was to melt a small amount of lead, such the sinker from a fishing rod, and when it was molten, pour it into a muffin tin over cold water. It solidified into odd shapes which Mother used to tell our fortunes. I always liked that practice, but was not able to pull it off for my children. Happy New Year and many hugs to you. Sarah
Sarah, Thank you so much. What a cool idea that your mom had to tell fortunes with the melted lead-I bet as a kid you found that captivating 🙂 Sending a hug back as wll as wishes for a Happy New Year to you as well ❤
Hi Kathy, Wonderfully written. I feel your sentiments. I’m glad your are finding some peace with your mom gone. I know our moms are watching over us! I wish you a wonderful New Year filled with many new successful adventures!
Sheri, thank you so very much. I feel for you as well, I know you are missing your mom too. I love knowing that they are watching over us. Sending you a Happy, creative New Year too! ❤
Very nice blog Kathy. Each year seems to lessen the grief. Glad you were able to celebrate your mom on her birthday.
Dear Roland, thank you. Yes, I see what you mean. I know you must miss your dad at this time of year too. It was nice to be able to celebrate it with more smiles and less tears. ❤
Your posts always brighten my day. Thank you for sharing more insight about your wonderful mother and her traditions. Happy New Year to you and your family Kathy.
Beth, thank you so very much. Happy New Year to you and your family as well, my friend. Sending a gentle hug! ❤
Kathleen, thank you so much for this beautiful post! This really hits home for me because I lost my dad 16 years ago, and Christmas is always the time I miss him most. What a beautiful service it must have been to see all those candles lit, remembering the precious memories of dear loved ones. Your mother sounds like an extraordinary woman–and my birthday is also December 15! So blessed to read your words of encouragement as we usher in a new year! I pray the Lord continues to give you strength each day as you hold onto the wonderful memories of your mom!
Christin, so nice of you to visit. I’m sending a gentle hug to you too as you miss your dad this holiday season. You’re right it was beautiful. Wonderful women are born on Dec 15th! Such a neat coincidence 🙂 I so need and appreciate your prayers and you will be in mine.
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Eclairs for her birthday…your mom was a woman after my own heart–and my birthday was Dec 14! Thanks for your lovely post. Nice to see you in cyberspace again!
Oh wow! I didn’t realize your birthday was in December! A very Happy belated birthday to you! I’ve always said great women are born in December! My agent, Anna also was born in December 🙂 Thank you so much! It’s great to be back ❤
The grief ebbs and flows and surfaces every so often for me.
What a wonderful memory you had in honor of your dear Mom and the eclairs sound wonderful!
And… I’m jealous of your blue lit palm tree. 🙂
Hello Lillian, my prayers and a gentle hug go out to you. Yes, the ebbs and flows sometimes come when you least expect it along the grief journey…Yes eclairs were yummy- and thanks! 🙂
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