An Ode to Light (and my Sister)


“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” ― William Shakespeare

For the last decade, if not longer, I have lit a candle every morning while I sit and sip my coffee to start my day. My family, very familiar with this habit of mine, thoughtfully chooses nice candles as gifts for me because they know I won’t splurge on the fancy ones for myself. Diligently conserving them so that they last as long as possible, I’ve always been careful not to let them burn too long each morning.

But all that changed on Christmas of last year, all because of my sister. Her gift to me was light, an abundance of it. Two big boxes were filled with individually wrapped presents, all for me. Each present was labeled, one for every month of the year. The accompanying note was titled “The Light in Lucy’s House.”

Part of me wanted to open them all at once, but instead, I tucked the two boxes in an out of the way corner and marked my calendar to remember to open each month’s gift on the first day.

When I opened the January candle, I took a photo and texted it to my sister to thank her again. This became my routine each month, snapping a picture of the newest candle and sending to her so she could see it brightening my living room. You can actually watch the seasons change in the photos since the backdrop was often the window that overlooks the woods behind our house. January’s snow and darkness, May’s early green leaves,  June’s lush brightness, November’s muted browns, and the return full circle to dark mornings and snow in December. All playing out behind the light of my of candles.

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” —Edith Wharton

The tag on each month’s gift had a note that linked it to a passion or memory special to me. For instance, February was a device that makes a lamp out of empty wine bottles, of which we have many in our house. March brought an Irish themed candle, in a nod to St. Patrick’s Day and my love of Ireland. August’s candle was decorated with a houndstooth print, marking the start of football season and reminiscent of our childhood years watching Bear Bryant (in his houndstooth hat) coach the University of Alabama’s team. November noted the harvest moon, and December brought a reindeer.

“No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind the door: the purpose of light is to create more light, to open people’s eyes, to reveal the marvels around.” ― Paulo Coelho

Sisters at Christmastime 1970-something.

Knowing I had a new candle coming each month, I let go of my “candle conservation.” I let those lights burn and burn; and, oh, what a joy it has been. I realized that prior to this, in my quest to have the fancy candles last longer, I was actually hoarding the light, which is silly because the point of light is to let it shine.

This past week I opened the final candle. After this, I am on my own again. But I haven’t even been tempted to return to my hoarding ways. Instead, I am giving the jumbo-pack of tea lights for the December reindeer a run for its money.

As it has turned out, the simple act of letting the candles burn, of actually using each one to its fullest during its appointed month, has become a bit of a metaphor for me lately, spilling over into the choices I make in my daily life in a good way.

It dawned on me the other morning by candlelight that my sister has always represented safety to me, a ready and dependable haven whenever I have needed something. And I never would have imagined how much I needed an abundance of light until she gave it to me.

“I had forgotten how much light there is in the world, till you gave it back to me.” — Ursula Le Guin

14 Comments on “An Ode to Light (and my Sister)

  1. Lucy,
    So much to love here! Lee Ann is a safe haven and absolutely the best gift -giver of anyone I know. She always knows just what is needed, even more than the receiver can perceive at the time. I, too, am a ‘candle with my coffee in the morning’ girl and I totally relate to the candle hoarding:) This piece is beautifully composed and of course, the subject matter is one of my most favorite people in the whole wide world.

    • Thank you, Leah! I know we are mutual appreciators of Lee Ann. I feel like I know you because I hear about you from her. I am so glad I spent some time at your blog this morning. Your writing is lovely and thoughtful—and insightful, too— which makes me feel doubly flattered by your kind comments about mine. I am glad to know we are “Coffee and Candle” sisters, too!

  2. Lucy,
    So beautiful! What an incredible sister you have! Reading this has helped me stop to appreciate how blessed I am by my sisters, too. Your metaphor about letting the candles burn has given me pause….and I have just added a candle to my morning coffee spot! Thank you!
    Love, Susan

    • Thank you, Susan! I had hoped that my “sister story” would be a humble placeholder for all the sister stories out there. I am glad to know you are adding candlelight to your coffee time, too. Spread the light :) Love right back to you!

  3. Beautiful sentiment and endearing photo–and I thought this was going to be about the light in the attic…..

  4. Oh, Lucy — What a beautiful story! I am going to adopt your tradition of lighting a candle with my coffee. Every time I do, I will think of you doing the same… Your sister gave you a lovely gift…and you made it even brighter with all you learned. Blessings to you, Shiny One!

    • Thank you, Barbara! I will now picture you joining me for coffee and candle time. Perhaps singing a few bars of “This Little Light of Mine” would also be appropriate to add to the morning ritual. :) #spreadlight #spreadlove

  5. Oh Lucy I have been shedding happy tears for over an hour now and my face is a bit of a mess but my heart is full of wonderful stories. Listened to Dear Rebecca and then read the story and listened to your Grandfather’s laugh and know I would really get on well with him. Your CD’s have blessed my friends beyond words. I just love this idea of a gift – what thoughtful wonderful children your Mother and Father nurtured. The world is a better place with you in it. Sending love and hugs from Australia

    • Oh Kath, I am so touched by your comment. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your letting me know how the CDs were received. And I loved knowing that you visited the Dear Rebecca story and liked “meeting” my grandfather through the story about him. He lives on! I am sure the two of you would have gotten on well. I hope you know with certainty that the world is a better place with you in it because of the kindness and caring you bring to it. Love right back to you from the U.S.A.

Leave a Reply to Susan Johnson Cancel reply