15338644_1160801533967297_3859329668969794238_nNo one is useless in this world who
lightens the burdens of another.

~Charles Dickens

Sixty tea light candles had been caringly placed in the front of the sanctuary for the annual non-denominational “Blue Christmas Service”. Each unlit candle represented a person loved, one who was absent, one who could no longer be present this holiday season.

The sanctuary was beautifully and traditionally decorated with brilliant red poinsettias, a tree filled with glass angel ornaments, holly, wreaths, evergreens, and a manger scene on the altar. For the 11th year, the service had been a safe space to lament, to grieve, to find hope and reassurance.

We had been invited to share a message of hope, of healing, of the eternal promise that “love never ends”.

Each tear that is shed is a quiet protest that the world isn’t quite right; each flickering candle is a silent reminder that love never ends; each carol that is sung is a hopeful longing for peace, comfort, and joy to grace the world once again.

The emotional high point of the service was when each person present was given the opportunity to remember a wife or husband, a son or daughter, a cherished friend, a special relationship that has ended in the last year.

A line formed down the sanctuary’s center aisle as one by one those grieving a loss came forward to share the name or names of those they missed so deeply. The organ played softly the beloved carols familiar to so many who were there.
A small bell was rung after each name was read aloud. A tea candle on the altar was ignited for each absent soul. Each one representing a glow of light and warmth in the darkness of others’ lives.

All 60 candles were lighted that night. The most in 11 years. The hushed sanctuary glowed with the flickering flames of deep love and palpable grief.

60 candles. 60 loved souls who could no longer be present this holiday season.

My husband …
My granddaughter …
Our son and father …

In a quiet whisper one woman remembered a man who had died earlier that day.

“What an incredibly sacred, touching and meaningful service”, we exhaled to one another as the organ postlude closed the service.

Tears flowed freely among those gathered. Tears of sorrow. Tears of longing. Tears of gratitude. Tears of pain. Tears of release from the sadness carried within.

Perhaps those tears shed made a quiet difference. We think they did.

To remember. To acknowledge. To speak the grief that is woven through our being when those we love so dearly die is a sacred gift.

We like this little story –

A little girl sobbed.

“Mother, Sophia dropped her doll and broke it.”

“Did you help her fix it?” her mother asked.

“No,” said the girl. “But I helped her cry.”

To be helped to cry is a healing balm, a cleansing release from our pain and broken spirits. This little girl inherently knew that. Sometimes we as adults forget it. Being helped to cry lightens our burdens and helps us to meet another hour, another day, another season. It helps us to find the relief we need to know that our pain is not born alone, that it flows from a love that will never end. The love that brings meaning to our lives.

It is the love that we celebrate in this holy season of the year.