I was raised a southern evangelical protestant, but I was always entranced by the Catholic tradition of lighting a prayer candle. The sight of a bank of candles, each representing a prayer, a person, was highly symbolic to me. It seemed that the prayers grew stronger when they had the support of others holding them up, just as the light of a dozen candles was stronger than a single flame. However, as a child, the ritual was always something forbidden, something foreign, something “good Christians” just did not do. When I moved out of my parents’ house and gained a little perspective, I learned that candles were used in religious rituals the world over. Lighting a candle and saying a prayer was something that I could do — it was no longer forbidden.
When I joined sorority, the candle-lighting ceremony was again a highly symbolic, emotionally charged event. Lighting a candle, passing it through the group, waiting for the good news of whatever had happened. We lit candles to commemorate friendships, celebrate engagements, and announce pregnancies. The candle represented the spirit of a single woman, surrounded and supported by friends who loved her.
Between these two viewpoints, lighting a candle has both positive and negative connotations for me. Candles are for celebration, for excitement and possibility and hope for the future. But at the same time, they are the reminder that there is suffering and pain, and that as a community we should support those in need.
So I made a candle for us, the infertile community.
At first I thought I was going to make it for myself. An infertility candle, since I know that I might never have one to announce my pregnancy. One to light when I pray, as a comfort when the world seems darkest. But when I went to buy the flowers, I couldn’t get Mel’s Mother Earth’s Flower Shop out of my head. The imagery of the infertile community as a sea of wildflowers, each individual and unique, directed my choices. And when I got home, Manly asked who I was making it for. My first thought: I’m making it for all of us. I’m making it to celebrate pg and adoptions and births. I’m making it to comfort after a loss, to soothe a wounded spirit, to provide support when the darkness closes in.
When I get home tonight, I’m going to light the candle. I’m going to say a prayer, for myself, for you individually if I know your circumstances, and for our community as a whole. And from now on, the candle is for all of us. If you want to celebrate, if you want to mourn, if you need support — let me know. Comment, drop an email, put it in the Lost & Found newsletter; I’ll light the candle. This is for me, and it’s for all you as well.