Candles BurningPosted on 17th November 2016 by Sean de Podesta
When Diana went into hospital for the last time, it was her Neighbourhood Care Scheme volunteer, Neil, who called the ambulance. He visited her regularly at the hospital, liaising with the doctors on her behalf. After a fortnight, she died from cancer at the age of 91.
Diana’s family, with whom she was not close, arranged the funeral at a time when Neil could not attend. He had been seeing Diana for six years and they had formed a close and affectionate relationship. Having missed her funeral, he arranged for Diana to be particularly remembered in the All Souls’ Day service at her local church.
Over the years, I had got to know Diana quite well, so I too attended the service and was glad of the opportunity to remember her. It was a simple and moving service, with around twenty people sitting in a circle in front of a screen on which photos of deceased parishioners, including Diana, were projected.
A large Paschal candle burnt behind the priest. Towards the end of the proceedings, each member of the congregation lit their own candle from this flame and the candles were left burning together in front of the screen. The light they made was significant.
You can choose your metaphor. For the priest, they represented the departed souls of the parish. But they could equally represent the continuing memory of those people. And they made me think of our volunteer visitors. And of the relationships they have with the people they befriend.
Even one relationship, one memory, one person matters. A single candle flame sheds a light – though maybe not one you would notice. But twenty, a hundred, two hundred relationships. That is a community. And that number of candles gives out a bright light.
All Souls’ Day was on 2nd November, during Befriending Week. So this was a timely reflection.