Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Candles and cemeteries

For the longest time, I thought the best item to bring during cemetery visits is flowers. I did that on several occasions. And then it changed. Two Sundays back when I visited the folks at Victoria Memorial Park, I chanced upon the last activities of a burial. Unfortunately or fortunately for me, the tent was set up near my folks’ graves. There was a crowd. Oh, oh there goes my privacy. I lingered as a habit. As the crowd thinned, I started to feel better. That’s when I noticed that three candles were left on my parents’ gravesite. Interesting. I decided to light them using the burning candles on the tomb of the newly buried. There were three candle glass holders on my parents' gravesite. They were probably left there by friends of my parents. I used the candle holders.
As nightfall came, I appreciated the candle flicker. Why didn’t I even think about it in the past? Why was I so agog with flowers? When the park gate was about to close, I decided to leave. It was about 7:00 in the evening. I did not put out the burning candle. I was certain that when the candles are all melted, the light will flicker out. However, I was also afraid this could also break the candle glass holders. I thought I will see tomorrow.

The following afternoon, I dropped by again with my daughter. This time, I brought a scented candle. I was right! One glass holder did break. We lit the candle and lingered until nightfall. I have decided that I will no longer bring flowers to the cemetery. I will bring candles instead. There is no meaning or significance. The candle brings comforting flicker in the night time. It adds a spark to the already well-lit park.
For those who have lost loved ones, it is a great comfort to make your cemetery visits a ritual. Yes, a ritual. In fact, each time I visit the memorial park, I see many people of varying age, shape, and size visiting their loved ones. Just across my parents’ gravesite, I always see this couple sitting on the covered ground beside a grave. They bring a mat to sit on and linger like me. Like me, they engage in ritual. According to a book I read after losing my mother, ritual is a very effective healing process. By honouring your loved ones in death through cemetery visit, celebrating their death anniversaries, and birthdays, you also aid your own healing process. I shared the comfort of rituals with my Iloilo-based friend Grace Bayoneta-Solis who just lost her father, the late Gregorio Bayoneta on March 27th. Grace is from General Santos City who studied at UP Iloilo for college and eventually settled there. We used to work together during a short-term work engagement I had with a power company in that beautiful city.   
I told her that during the grieving process, there will be good days and bad days. The book calls it “waves”. Grace calls it “episode”. Whatever it is called, everyone who lost a loved one will experience it. We just need to be gentle with ourselves as we grieve.        

My condolences to Grace’s mother Nanita Bayoneta and sisters Marissa Bayoneta, Midly Pausa, Melanie Bayoneta, Maylin Bayoneta, and Mildred Bayoneta. Be gentle with each other; be gentle with yourselves. Rituals will bring you great comfort.


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