November 4th, 2009


National Children's Memorial Day Is December 13

More than one of my friends and family members have lost someone dear to them this year. It's hard even when someone dies who has lived a long, full life. But there's a special tearing grief for those who died too young. And the grief is powerful even when you believe in an afterlife.

Every year, the second Sunday in December is Children's Memorial Day. That's the day many people grieve for those who have died too young. At 7PM local time, light a candle and let it burn for an hour. It helps to get some of the grief faced before the holiday. I've been doing this since 1997 -- the first year it was held, the year Diane died.

I've been told that this is a fake holiday or that I should stick to traditional mourning days. But as a Protestant Christian, I don't actually have traditional mourning days. The liturgical denominations commemorate All Saints and All Souls, but my background is fundamentalist, and those days would be just as artificial to me. Unlike Jews, we don't observe a formal yahrzeit, the anniversary of someone's death. I don't even know what commemorative customs other religions follow.

Because I've observed this day for a dozen years, prayed and wept and watched the candle burn down, Children's Memorial Day is a genuine holy day for me. Maybe you have other ways to mark your grief, or you don't want to try this. That's fine. But maybe you'll find comfort in the candle-lighting ceremony.

Whatever your grief, may you find comfort and peace.

From the web site of the Compassionate Friends:

The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting unites family and friends around the globe in lighting candles for one hour to honor and remember children who have died at any age from any cause. As candles are lit at 7 p.m. local time, creating a virtual wave of light, hundreds of thousands of persons commemorate and honor children in a way that transcends all ethnic, cultural, religious, and political boundaries.

Believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the globe, the Worldwide Candle Lighting, a gift to the bereavement community from The Compassionate Friends, creates a virtual 24-hour wave of light as it moves from time zone to time zone. Hundreds of formal candle lighting events are held and thousands of informal candle lightings are conducted in homes as families gather in quiet remembrance of children who have died, but will never be forgotten.

The Worldwide Candle Lighting started in the United States in 1997 as a small Internet observance but has since swelled in numbers as word has spread throughout the world of the remembrance.