December 22, 2005
Spreading the light
by HEIDI WALTERS
The best thing about Reader's Request, sometimes, is that you get to randomly peep for a moment into the life of someone who isn't a town bigwig, or who doesn't have a gripe against her neighbor, hasn't been arrested, hasn't been railing against the county or the pulp mill or the water board or whatever, who didn't just publicly throw a gazillion bucks at this or that, hasn't been name-calling anyone (that we know of, anyway) -- who, in short, has no reason whatsoever to have the newshound's spotlight (gripped in slavering, toothy maw) suddenly trained upon her. This someone -- and we're talking about Arcata reader Marie Macinata, in this instance -- was just minding her own business until, one day last week, she phoned up the newspaper with a question:
"On the second Sunday in December you light a candle at 7 in the evening, and you let it burn for one hour, for all the children who have died," Macinata began. "I've known this for years, and I do it every year. I put a candle on the coffee table and let it burn one hour. But what I don't remember" -- she laughs -- "is where did this originate? I've been telling people to do it, and they say `Why?' and I say, `For all the children who've died,' and they say, `But who started it?' and I say, `I don't remember!' The idea is to try to get people to do it all across the country. I read it in some newspaper."
Turns out, The Compassionate Friends, Inc., appears to be the official perpetuator of the tradition. "The Worldwide Candle Lighting is held every year on the second Sunday in December, at 7 p.m. in every time zone. As candles burn down in one time zone, they are lighted in the next, creating a 24-hour wave of light that encircles the globe in a virtual 24-hour memorial," reads the TCF site. People also gather in person in some locales. TCF is an organization for people who've lost children -- it's a gathering point and a resource center. Northern Humboldt County's chapter is based in Eureka (the contact is Anne Wade, 733-5124).
Wayne Loder, who works with TCF (based in Oak Brook, Ill.), says the tradition started in 1996 when a group of TCF members were chatting on the Internet and came up with the candle-lighting idea. It spread, then TCF "picked up the torch, so to speak."
Macinata has her reasons for joining the worldwide memorial. "We've lost little ones within my family," she says. "I come from a family of nine. My mother lost two sets of twins. My sisters each lost one. The candle -- it's just something I do. It's like a prayer." She also thinks of the young woman who grew up next door who died of cancer. And of others she's known in her 81 years, and whom her husband's known in his 86. And as for that spotlight, Macinata says if she wasn't on oxygen -- a bit of a handicap -- she'd gladly share her sentiments in public. "You known, like the ladies in black," she says. "I'd love to stand with those ladies, but I can't." So she phones all her friends and tells them to light that candle.
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