“You should get real candles. You’re a minister.”
I was at Bed, Bath & Beyond and my friend was helping me get some supplies. I explained that we light a chalice at church and that the electric ones last so much longer and are a lot safer in an old building. So when I was looking for candles for my home chalice to light in the times when everything was streaming and on online platforms, I was looking at the electric ones. He scoffed and wasn’t swayed. Whether primal or merely preference, he thought the real thing was important.
On Saturday, I lit the chalice I brought with me to the home where our dear friend Betsy lived. I lit the candle the chalice held, the real candle. There was singing and playing. There was reading. There was longing and there were goodbyes, all shared by the light of the chalice. I remember coming back to the living room after spending time with family and friends whose hearts were breaking, whose feelings of loss and grief were reaching the kinds of outward expressions that give voice to the love we hold for one another that we can’t fully realize until we bid farewell.
I don’t know if someone blew the candle out. I don’t know if the flame was quelled in the melting wax. I don’t know if a wind swept through to quiet the flame. But the flame was out. The stillness of the chalice was like the pause at the turn of a breath from exhalation to inhalation, like it was resting, deciding what it might do next.
When I hold the chalice now, somehow the roughness of the clay is more satisfying. The smooth parts, glazed and blue, feel even more expertly crafted than before. I find that I don’t want to remove the wax that flowed out into the bowl of the chalice. I don’t want to disturb what feelings might be pressed into that wax, like the record of a morning none of us will ever get to play again yet we all can recall perfectly, exquisitely.
Maybe this is what honor feels like. Maybe it’s what reverence teaches. And maybe the final obedience to the certainty we all face, of mortality, is a more gentle yielding than many of us imagine. Maybe.
But this I know. The voice of a friend echoes now with gratitude for the honor, the reverence, and wisdom he shared: “You should get real candles.”
And may it ever be so.
Rev. T. J.