Have you ever thought about how a small flame of a candle can transform? Candles have the power to change an everyday meal into a romantic event, a ferocious thunderstorm into a family game night, and a hot bath into a luxurious retreat. We use them to create intimacy in large spaces and to generate a cozy atmosphere in small ones. They soften weddings, and light up birthdays. It is remarkable how one tiny spark of light can do so much for the décor of a place. Enough light and heat produce warm hands, a warm room…and smores. On a birthday cake, we use candles to represent years. Each year gets brighter as we add a candle representing how life grows…until one year we set off the fire alarm. My favorite are the sweet smelling candles. The aroma adds to the beauty of the glow by bringing your nose to the party. Just the smell of an evergreen candle can bring Christmas memories racing to your mind. At my house there are two times when the kids ask, “Who’s coming over?” when I am cleaning and when I light all the candles. There is just something in the glow of a flame that draws us.
We use candles in our worship. We light candles when we pray for others, reminding us of the fire of God’s spirit that dwells within them. We have candlelight services in which the spark of hope that started with the baby Jesus spreads throughout the room until, corporately we glow with his love for us. The light chases out the darkness and symbolizes our faith in a dark world. We use flame to represent the “Light of the World” of Jesus, and we use flame to represent being made in the image of that light in human life. The luminary lap honors that life.
At Relay for Life events, there are several laps we walk…the survivor lap, the caregiver lap, the team lap are meaningful. Each of those laps validates the hard cancer journey. Each of them has significance. Each of them brings tears in different ways. However, at this moment we take a silent moment to walk the luminary lap in memory and honor of loved ones who have fought this disease.
I guess being a survivor, it hits you differently maybe than others who have not walked this road. Maybe it is more so for me at this time in my life, but I think most survivors, if we are honest, will admit that we have the nagging fears in the back of our minds. As you walk, you see your name right next to those who didn’t survive and wonder. I have to confess, I let my mind go there for just a minute while I walk. I wonder if one day my kids will walk this lap without me and stop to look at my candles. I wonder if my whole life will be represented by a name on a luminary. Or if I will go from an “in honor” bag to an “in memory” bag at sometime in the future.
At my hometown Relay Event, I have watched a co-worker and her husband walk and cry for those they had lost, while knowing that next year his name would be on an “in memory” bag. Last year, my in honor bag stood side by side with my mother in law’s. Tonight hers is a memory bag, and mine still stands beside hers. Our candles will light up the night.
The flames represent hope. They have meaning, beyond décor, or heat, or even light…they are our lives. Not literally, of course, but each flame in the circle of light signifies the life of a person, one who has touched many others. Individually, they glow in the darkness. Each of them brought laughter and shared tears. They had hopes and dreams and families who love them. Blending the light of both survivors and those who did not, illuminates the night. The light is brighter than any one individual, yet each is distinctly unique. Walking the track, memories abound. Tears of sorrow flow freely. This is the reality of the disease.
Yet hope rises in the midst. I have to tell you I don’t want my name to be on an “in memory” bag. I don’t want my kids to have to endure that walk. I believe it is possible that they will not have to. It is why I am passionate about cancer events. The gifts given, the lives invested, the time spent at events like this one will make the difference in life or death in the cancer battle. The light of hundreds of candles brings with it the spark of possibility. It is possible to survive. It is possible to find a cure. The flames will one day make that possibility a reality.
For now, the silence of the next few moments speaks volumes. It is our tribute to those lost. It is a time for us to allow memories to fill our minds and hearts in solemn remembrance. Let’s walk.

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