Wednesday, April 3, 2013


I mentioned briefly how a neighbor girl was found dead near our home & school two weeks ago.   Our Moms-in-Prayer group emailed each other dozens of times a day to talk about what we could do.   Someone came up with the idea of lighting luminaries around their home during the memorial service.  Brilliant!  Because:SAM_5077

1)  It’s something that can be done anonymously by a group of people who don’t know the family, but want to show support and love.

2) It builds community for those who do it and those who witness it.

3)  The family returns home from the most emotional service in their lives to a home that isn’t, at least literally, quite as dark and cheerless as when they left it.

4) Candle light is steeped with meaning, and a beautiful tribute to a lost soul.

Once the idea was decided on, dozens more emails went around.  “I have 50 bags!”  “I have gravel!”  The  next can be framed in two ways:


Scenario 1: One mother, who had been silent up until now, offered her home, so close to the grieving families, as headquarters for materials and prep.  She organized teams to prep on Monday, set out and light on Tuesday during the service, and clean up on Wednesday morning (leaving a note for the family so they would know not to be concerned about clean up), and signed up for each team.  She sent out the appropriate emails, and made sure everyone knew to bring headlamps and lighters.  She had containers to carry the luminaries and a plan to recycle/reuse the materials as much as possible.  It went very smoothly and it was impossibly lovely.  People who knew the family immediately passed along how surprised and touched they were to come home to the luminary-lit streets and paths.

Scenario 2: A grouchy mother was getting very tired of dozens of extra emails a day, and all talk, no action.  Finally, she jumped in and said: This is what we are going to do. Blah, Blah, Blah.  Then she rewrote the email 4 times until it didn’t sound grouchy, but cheerful and helpful.  She took phone calls and emails, trying to school herself for patience (mostly) while she kept doing things her own way (mostly).   (No way were we going to throw 200+ luminaries entirely in trash bags and just dump them in the landfill!)   All three days went very smoothly and it was impossibly lovely.  People who knew the family immediately passed along how surprised and touched they were to come home to the luminary-lit streets and paths.

Now my own mother knows that it could be spun to be Scenario 1, but if you are reading this blog, you already know I’m the grouchy mom who wants to scream “Shut up and do it!”  (It’s not my mom’s fault I turned out this way—she spent a lot of time in my formative years trying to make me as good internally as I seemed externally.)

Was there a point to this? Not really.  It’s a blog and I just wanted to write.  But this seems like a good time to record what I learned so if I (or you, dear reader) do this again, no one would have to reinvent the wheel.


1) We prepped 160 luminaries in just under an hour four adults (and two—not me—working without distractions). 

2) Sand is so much better than gravel.  Avoid gravel if you can.

3) Use tea lights, over candles without a shell or battery-operated tea lights.

4) Tea lights last about 3-4 hours. Plan set up, light up, and how late you want them burning accordingly.

5) Head lamps and long-stemmed lighters are extremely helpful.  

6) Make luminaries ahead of time by scooping about 1.5” of sand at  the bottom of a brown paper bag.  Save the candle until you are ready to light; otherwise, you will just have to upright the candle and shake off the extra sand. 

7) To just pick up the 250 luminaries and stuff them back into boxes (to be sorted later) takes less than 10 minutes with 4-5 adults. 

8) Candles have to be tossed, but bags can be recycled (yard waste), and the extra sand always comes in handy for paver stones, etc.  A very, very small bag of tea light shells had to go to the landfill.  Not bad f0r a minivan full of luminaries!

9) The person who brought the anonymous card also brought a beautiful candle/candle holder.  It was placed on the front step with the card and it looked like all the lights, from the  main road, to the neighborhood, up the driveway, and through the gate led to that one candle.SAM_5083

I sound very callous writing about “How to make pretty luminaries for dead teenagers” but I don’t really want to write about it any more.  My heartfelt sympathy doesn’t add or take away from anyone else’s true grief.

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