“Dad? Can we light my candle?” Jack asked me yesterday morning.
I looked to the clear mason jar on the hutch in the living room. It was magnificent. The lid was dotted with toy gems, while the innards of the jar were filled with colored granules in a red/white/blue flowing pattern. Jack’s handiwork had been sitting there long enough for the candle to be invisible to my eyes over time. “Sure,” I said, despite it being the middle of Summer with the temperature hanging around 80. “How come?”
“We were never able to use it after I made it, because of Grandma’s oxygen machine.”
The Summer of 2013 is mostly a blur to our family. After Jack’s grandmother was diagnosed with brain tumors and lung cancer in May of that year, the following three months weren’t a time for fighting a disease into remission. It was a time to make her comfortable during the time she had left. That Summer our family’s day to day dynamic shifted to helping Grandma. It was most important. Many of our regular activities were put on hold. Many of the things we may have done became foggy or lost to history. And many of the things that we actually did got forgotten.
Like Jack making a candle for The Fourth Of July.
Jack, David and I talked a little about that Summer. We talked about why we couldn’t light candles while we had the oxygen tanks and machines in the house. Some memories from those months do remain. Like the two trips in one week that we took as a family – one to Leavenworth WA and the other to the ocean – which became Jan’s final outings into the world. Like the wonderful home visits she received from relatives and people from church. I remember watching her open up to her pastor in a way that I never heard her talk before – even with her family. Like the trip to Salt Lake City for a wedding that Sherry and David were able to take together. Like the string of bad movies I watched on Netflix, within earshot of Jan’s hand bell – 24/7 in her final week. Like the constant murmur of her oxygen machine, with its clear tube running from the living room and up the stairs to her room.
And the defining moment when that machine was shut off for the final time on August 19, 2013.
We lit the candle. For Jack, and for Grandma.