Monday, May 14, 2007

Candles and Prayers

Prayers by Candlelight

When my cousin went to the doctor for a ‘follow-up’ exam, I lit a candle.

Maybe I watched too many old movies where pious women wearing scarves knotted beneath their chins, knelt and crossed themselves. Then they lit candles and prayed while statues of saints watched from the walls.

The ‘follow-up’ was to a regular exam that had followed a not so regular surgery to remove an impressive (size-wise) tumor from my petite, thin-as-a-rail cousin.

She has grandbabies to hold and daughters who have turned into delightful companions. She has a husband who retired and wants to do fun things like travel and shop. She needs her health.

So I turn to an antique towel stand originally used by my mother and her parents. It had once held a stoneware pitcher and bowl. Cotton towels hung on a rack behind it. It seems appropriate that this former cleansing center now serves as an altar in my home. This day I lit a vanilla scented candle. A Mary candle in honor of my cousin. It reminds me all day to pray for her healing. Every time the flame flashed, I turned and said her name and asked God for healing.

I am not religious. But I believe in prayer and I believe in God.

I light candles.

Candles are holy. I see God more clearly in dawn’s light and candlelight. The beginning of each new day causes me to celebrate and say thank you. Candlelight brings me peace and one-ness with my maker.

Is Mary healed? We waited for the biopsy results.

Her daughter phoned. Tears flooded her voice. My faith shriveled into a tight ball in the pit of my stomach and my brain hammered, “No, no, no, no. NOOOOO.”

She choked out words around her tears, “It’s good news. Good news. There is no cancer. It’s gone.”

My prayers turned from please, to thank you. The only two phrases necessary when talking to God at times when the need seems bigger than words: please and thank you.

She received healing, whether through my prayers or her own or just from the generosity of a loving God or a fluke of nature or a medical misdiagnosis. I know that she has realigned her life’s priorities.

I set down the phone and turned once again to my alter. With a prayer I bent over the flame and snuffed it with my breath. The vanilla smoke wafted upwards. Along with the whispy trail, I sent a whispered, "Thank you."

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