Candles light the way to coping with loss

By Deborah RawsonPrint Story | Email Story
Linda Astore decorates a candle with assistance from Mary Bedient-Wood, Bereavement Care Coordinator for HospiceCare In The Berkshires. (Photo By Deborah Rawson)
PITTSFIELD — When Mary Bedient-Wood started the Remembrance Candle program four years ago, the glass emergency candles used as the base for the creations were plentiful, as the world stocked up on emergency supplies — especially candles — in preparation for a supposed Y2K disaster. Today, the world prepares for different, perhaps more real, threats, and the candles are more difficult to find. Bedient-Wood, bereavement care coordinator for HospiceCare In The Berkshires Inc., has been offering her caring and guidance for 13 years through the candle program. Through it, candles are creatively decorated with photos, mementos and other special details that call to mind a loved one who has died. Bedient-Wood said she has seen countless emotions surface through the artistic work involved in the candle-decorating process. Linda Astore recently attended a Remembrance Candle decorating event for the first time. “I came because I decided ‘you never know’,” said Astore, who was crafting a candle for her daughter’s 36th birthday. “I’m putting pictures of my folks, her grandparents — and I am going to give it to her for her birthday. I’m going to go out and buy more candles so that I can make them and give them as gifts to other people.” Astore was planning a trip to Kansas to spend two weeks with her daughter and present her with the special candle. The decorating process was a roller coaster ride for her, as she worked on her piece through tears, family memories and even some laughter. But, in an experience common for many, the ride came to rest in a peaceful place by the time she finished. Another first-time participant was Anna Forte, who was making a candle in memory of her deceased father. As she worked, she shared and accepted words of support and encouragement from others. Some sat quietly crafting their candles. A few had attended multiple times. Denise Sargent, along with her son Leland, and Mary Ferrell continue to nurture a tragic, yet special bond through the candle crafting and other programs offered by the Pittsfield HospiceCare. The women are the mothers of two teenagers who were tragically killed by a drunken driver in an automobile accident two years ago. They have become friends and close sources of support for each other and for one another’s families. “We like to do the candles and give them to people so they remember my daughter,” Sargent said. Compassion emanated through the room, as those attending offered hugs and a listening ear, as well as assistance for those inexperienced in decorating. “We have all kinds of mediums — soft tissue papers, glitter, beautiful clip art, so that you can make the candle to your exact specifications and remember your person the way you want to,” Bedient-Wood said. “People make and use the candles for many different reasons and occasions. Some people will make a candle in remembrance of a deceased loved one and light it on that person’s birthday. Or, on holidays, some people use their candles as the centerpiece and keep it lit throughout the day, so that the deceased loved one can still be part of the celebration.” She said many people bring a special photo or an array of photos delineating the lives or hobbies of their loved ones that can be affixed in neat arrangements or in collage fashion. Some candles contain glitter and sparkles and are very showy, while others are more basic and simple, perhaps more accurately reflecting the personality of the person for whom it was made. Some people even come to make the candles for a beloved pet that has passed away. “There are no rules,” Bedient-Wood said. “You can craft the candles and use them however you like.” More important — or at least as important as the final luminous creation itself — is the healing and sharing that takes part in the room by people who have shared a similar experience; an experience none can avoid, yet few can be prepared for or know how to react to, she said.

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