A Story of G: The Candle Burning

Note: This was written at a conference I went to called Sage-ing. It’s about aging with wisdom, and incorporating intentional spirituality into this journey. I went out of the generous invitation of a member at Colonial Church as we prayerfully consider what it would look like to start an “Act III” ministry. During the conference I went to a break-out session called: Older Women’s Legacy Circle: A Life Review and Memoir Program, led by Judith Helburn. She wrote:

The OWL program was developed with a grant given to Story Circle Network. Its mission is to help women everywhere share the stories of their lives. The manual specifically guides the facilitator not only with suggested subject matter, but timing, marketing, organizing, and presentation as well. This session covered the Story Circle material and will offer suggestions on how one might lead a series or memoir writing sessions on one’s own. We will have time to do some guided writing and share examples of how the program works.

And so I found myself, being invited to picture a dinner table of my family (chosen or given) and seat six people at it (including myself). My table included: Me, Andy, Greg, Linda, Luke, and Gram (“G”). Were then instructed to write for five minutes about one of the people at our table. I decided to write about my Gram. Here’s what I wrote that day…


A Story of G: The Candle Burning

You always told me to not bring the candles into the tree house with me. I couldn’t help it. I loved fire. Third drawer down in the marble hutch and the cabinet door to the right. Pick your fire, pick the match…and light.

You knew that I snuck them.

You made sure that I still got in trouble sometimes.

“It’s dangerous, Sara, to have candles up here, you might burn the whole place down.”

“But I won’t, Grandma. I’ll be careful. I promise.”

And then you would look at me with you head slightly crooked to one side with that love of me radiating in your eyes.

You never let me be in trouble for long.

Even when you didn’t understand my fires; when you wanted to refuse the things I believed that you thought dangerous…even then you would end up tilting your head and radiating your love of me.

And I supposed this is why when you died I knew that I would never have that space again. Of the head-tilting, light of love gleaming safety in the midst of the fires I have to light and the candles I have to burn.

And you maybe also knew that the candle burning was more like you than you might have known/wanted to admit.

For you survived by the fire that is/was inside of you. Yes, you feared her, but she still shone through in the stubborn determination of your chin. In the young woman who, once confirmed, left that church so she could drink and smoke and dance.

And I now, as the fire-bringer became a pastor there– who played Kesha on Reformation Sunday.

Grandma, there are candles in my tree house.

I see you smiling and the light of love in your eyes as you join me at tea and laugh freely…”Burn them down Sara. Be your light.”

I strike a match. I light the wicks around me.

I whisper through tears: “I love you, G.”


Two final notes: 1) I was a pastor at 1st Cov in Minneapolis, which is where my gram was confirmed. We were able to do her funeral there while I was on staff. 2) Gram and I used to play Mama Bear and Papa Bear and she would always come as Papa Bear to have tea with me in my tree house (why we played this, I have no idea, and no one was ever baby bear…I guess I just loved that story?)

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