Light in Absence, A New Family Tradition

Light in Absence

A Beacon When One Sails Away

My family has recently instituted a new tradition.  Each time a member of our small nuclear family is away for any length of time, we light a candle at the family member’s place at the table while we eat our meals during their absence.

When I was in San Francisco for five days in February, my husband and daughter lit a candle at my place.  My daughter and I lit a candle at my husband’s place while he was in Ohio for five days in June.  My husband and I lit a candle at my daughter’s place while she was sleeping over at a friend’s house this past weekend.  When we are sharing a meal together, with everyone present, the lit candle occupies the center of the table between the three of us.  When we have guests eating with us, especially friends, a candle is lit at the center to represent the spirit of fellowship that brings us together.

Aerial View of Candlelit table set for 6

What Does the Light Do?

Why do we do this?  I believe that we light a candle to remind us of the spirit that unites us as one whether we are in the same room or far away.  If we are separated, we light the candle to support the absent family member ‘s mission that has led them to a different place.  For me, it was training as a Labyrinth Walk Facilitator in San Francisco.  My husband was in Columbus, OH for the UU General Assembly.  For my daughter it meant engaging in a young person’s rite of passage. We acknowledge their absence from the table and extend thoughts of love, safety and happiness to him or her while the candle is lit.

When a family member is away from home, s/he is not only absent from sharing the meal on a physical level, s/he is also absent from any conversation that happens during the meal.  The family members keeping the candle at the individual’s place may think of what the absent member might contribute to the conversation they are having, which is often a fun exercise.

I would love to know if my readers have engaged in a similar family ritual.  How is it similar or how does it differ?

 

 

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Author: Karen Szklany Gault

Teacher, musician, artist, gardener, labyrinth walker and poet

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