The Yahrzeit Candle
March 29-30, 1997
It was 7:30 on the night before Easter Sunday, and I was about to light my first Yahrzeit candle. Lev Baesh gave this memorial light to me. Two and one-half years earlier after hearing one rabbi’s spiritual presentation at a hospice training session, another rabbi intimately entered my world. It was this rabbi, my new life partner, who presented the candle to me so that I could observe the one-year anniversary of Gil’s journey with this Jewish symbol of reverence. This candle-lighting custom began in Talmudic time and, according to Jewish custom, the candle and its flame symbolize the essence of man. How appropriate that I would be lighting a candle for Gil, who, as his life waned, constantly had a votive candle burning at this side.
—Excerpt from Reflections of a Loving Partner: Caregiving at the End of Life
I truly believe that everyone has a book germinating within, just waiting to emerge; but what becomes the catalyst for its creation? For me, it was the weight of not wanting to forget the life-altering experiences of taking care of my dying partner, Gil.
The catalyst for my creation was a self-imposed ritual of a twenty-minute, daily morning immersion into stream-of-consciousness writing about those end-of-life, caregiving events that I had been holding onto for many months follow Gil’s death; a ritual which soon became a daily, cathartic exercise within my world of grief.
The outcome of my writing ritual was an organized collection of death and dying, grief and mourning vignettes that became a recently published memoir shared with the world, offered with the intention of supporting others who may find themselves in the role of caregiver. However, regardless of publication as outcome, the ritual of transforming experience to story is empowering.
Story telling through writing may offer solace in sharing a universal experience that is oftentimes difficult to describe. Most importantly, story telling through writing has the potential of enlightening others and at the same time awakening self-discoveries. I invite you to create a personal ritual that allows you to immerse yourself into your story within, allowing enlightenment and self-discoveries to emerge; and I look forward to reading what germinates from within you.
C. Andrew Martin, MSN, RN, CHPN is the author of Reflections of a Loving Partner: Caregiving at the End of Life (December 2010; Quality of Life Publishing Co.), He is a Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse at Beacon Hospice, Inc. and is Adjunct Online Faculty at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. Andrew is passionate about educating the community about end-of-life care issues and was recently recognized as a 2010-2011 End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) Award Winner.
Andrew will be reading from his 2011 Benjamin Franklin Award winning memoir, Reflections of a Loving Partner: Caregiving at the End of Life, and leading a discussion at Mayyim Hayyim on Monday evening, June 20, from 7-8:30 pm. Signed copies of his book will be available for purchase. For more information about Andrew and his book, please visit www.candrewmartin.com. For more information about the event, please click here.