Periodically during the year, associated with certain holidays, we light candles to remember people from our families who have died. My husband and I choose to light all of these candles on the evening before Yom Kippur and on the anniversary of the death of each of our loved ones who are no longer with us. We light these candles to honor our family members and to remind us that life is finite.
An important part of my spiritual practice is allowing myself to be aware of the preciousness of life. As a humanist I don’t believe that life continues after death. Death is likely real. It is likely that we only live in people’s memories and even that ends when those who remembered us are gone. This makes life exquisitely precious. We cannot shrug and say that life will be better in the world to come. This is probably it.
Lighting these candles is both bitter and sweet. I appreciate having this ritual. I remember my brother, my mother, and my father. My husband remembers his parents and his brother. Memories of them burn brightly.
The day after all the candles are lit, we soak the little glasses that housed the wax and metal in hot water to remove the labels and the remnants of wax. Like most Jews who have this practice, we don’t waste those vessels of remembrance. They become little juice glasses. Life goes on and those whom we honor drank from glasses just like these the morning after the candles remembering their dead had finished burning.
A new year begins. We celebrate life. We love our friends and family. We raise our little juice glasses to life! L’chaim! May your New Year be sweet and may you savor each moment.