Every January 10th, March 16th, May 4th and November 2nd, I light a candle in memory of Grandma Dot, Grandma Min, Grandpa Ben, and Grandpa Phil. I put a picture on my kitchen table, and light a 24-hour candle next to it the evening before. For that day, I imagine that particular grandparent sitting in with my husband and me as we go about our business and talk about our day.
It’s as if they get a glimpse into our current lives and I feel their presence for that day. We do the same for my husband’s grandparents, cousin, and father, and for other people we have loved and lost.
Lighting a candle on the anniversary of a loved one’s death has power. It’s a tradition in Jewish households, as well as in Catholic churches. Those without a faith tradition, or whose religion does not call for annual recognition, can benefit from this simple candle lighting tradition.
The days I light candles for my grandparents correspond to the days they died. This tradition is called a yartzeit, a word with German roots. The act of remembering these dates and lighting these candles keeps their memory alive – their positive traits, their shortcomings, the fact that they raised my parents who in turned raised me, an intertwining of their influence throughout the generations.
Remembrance candles can also be lit for the departed on their birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, any time you want to make a special effort to call forth their spirits. A sense of comfort can be drawn from the focus on their lives through the burning flame that represents the spirit.