There is a light that burns in every Jewish synagogue, the Ner Tamid.
In Judaism, the sanctuary lamp is known by its Hebrew name, ner tamid (Hebrew: נֵר תָּמִיד), which is usually translated as “eternal flame” or “eternal light”. Hanging or standing in front of the ark in every Jewish synagogue, it is meant to represent the menorah of the Temple in Jerusalem as well as the continuously burning fire on the altar of burnt offerings in front of the Temple. It also symbolizes God’s eternal presence and is therefore never extinguished. It is also intended to draw parallels between God and fire, or light, which is emphasized throughout the book of Exodus in the Torah. Additionally, it is often used to symbolize the light released from the shards of the receptacles that God used to create light and goodness. ~Wikipedia
Ever since Jake died, we keep a candle burning on our kitchen window sill for him. Nothing fancy, we get the 3-day candles from the 99¢ store; there is a box of them on the floor of our living room behind the little Dansk day bed. Sometimes we miss lighting a new one in time and it burns out overnight. When I come in to the kitchen in the morning, I get a jolt seeing the tall empty glass with the bit of wax residue and the square of metal that held the wick on the bottom. I hasten to retrieve a new one and light it right away, even before I put up the water for my morning tea. I expect we will maintain our own ‘eternal light’ for the rest of our lives.
We keep it burning for reasons of our own, there is no custom or ritual in Judaism that prescribes it.
When Jake was younger, he fell in love with candle making. It started on an elementary school trip, they made sand cast candles on the beach. He was always fascinated with process and making things, and true to form he threw himself into this new art form. He graduated from sand candles to pouring elaborate candles in a variety of shapes and colors. We made the trek out to General Wax in North Hollywood many times to procure huge slabs of various waxes, molds, wicks, colors, sparkles, pots, tools, all the accoutrements of the trade. He even had a little business selling votive candles to local restaurants. He began by making them himself, but the orders got so voluminous, and the process so laborious, that he soon figured out to just take the orders and have the votives drop shipped from General Wax right to his customers. All he had to do was make the call and pick up the check. As he got older, the candle business fell by the wayside as did his candle making hobby. We eventually sold all the gear as he had moved on to bigger and more incendiary pursuits. Like welding. But I digress.
The ever-burning candle reminds me of that eager little boy asking the managers of the restaurants we dined in, “Would you buy candles from me?” Reminds me of his making decorative candles and selling them, buying cases of round candles, tall candles, fluted candles, tea lights, votives, oil candles, and finally electric LED candles. (We still have boxes of candles in the garage.) Reminds me of the young man who led candle making for the kids in our synagogue every Hanukkah, the festival of light. He was definitely into light and fire. I smile every time I think of it
Jake had a million candle-power personality. He could light up a room with a smile. He brought so much light to the ones he loved and loved him. He sparkled with enthusiasm, with knowledge, with care, with humor, with friendship, with wit, with thought, with the sheer joy of life. Our little candle is but a shard, a pale glimmer of the light that Jake took with him when he left this world. By keeping that tiny flame burning, it brings a little more light into the world in his honor.
Our candle serves as a beacon for his spirit, a light to guide his way home when he comes to visit. In the same way, it is a beacon for my spirit, an eternal connection to the possibility of his return. Not that I expect him to knock at the door, I gave up hope for that long ago. But I know he does come to us periodically. He comes to me in dreams. Sometimes so vividly, I know it is a visit from him. Sometimes his presence is vague and ill-defined, but he is there. Sometimes I can sense him during the day: a sound, a smell, a song on the radio. He is here. He is wherever we are.
We tend that eternal light with the same love and care that we tended him during his life.It is a token of our undying love for him. A symbol to the world that we can never let him go completely. That he dwells in our hearts and soul for as long as we live. That our love never wavers, never goes out, and that love illuminates our lives and the tiny corner of the world in which we live.
Shine on, Jakey Jake. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.
I have a candle burning every day for my daughter too. I also get them from the dollar store and tonight I noticed that the one that had been burning had gone out, so just now before going to bed I got out my last candle and lit it. The love I have for my daughter Julia burns all the time in my heart but it is also comforting to see that candle lit, sitting on my fireplace mantle beside her picture. It comforts me. And then I found your post before I turned off my computer for the night.
I enjoyed the sweet stories of Jake’s candle making business, his enthusiasm, his determination and creative interest in making candles. Those are wonderful memories and wonderful experiences. Thank you for sharing these stories with us.
Dru- Thank you so much for your comment. Yes, it is comforting to see that 3-day candle burning on our window sill. As you say, it is an outward representation of the love that burns in our hearts for our children. There are so many stories, so many. It would take 24 years of blogging to tell them all. Maybe one day, we can sit together and share stories of our beloved children. Peace to you and yours.
Dru, thx to your suggestion that this is indeed “something” I can do for my sweet child, each day, without fail, regardless of where we are, we light a candle for Amy and recite the some of the words you shared with me two years ago. Amy, (Julia and Jake) May your soul rest in peace and may eternal light shine on you. I am so grateful you are our child. We love and miss you so. May all those who are interested in our family’s welfare and of the iniverse, assist us now please.
Oh Ed, thank you so much for sharing your Jake with us all. Through your loving writing we all get to know him and love him. He lives on forever in all our hearts!
Ed, the love that flows is eternal and nothing can ever put out their beautiful light. I would have been one of Jake’s customers. Peace be with you, my friend.
I’ve gotten lost in your waiting project this morning and can’t seem to continue the morning I had planned. And then I came across this photo and then you mentioned “welding” and the tears began to flow. Yes sweet dear and insatiable Jake loved to weld. And the day that he spent many long years ago in our warehouse welding together whatever Yakov would give him, filling the space with smoke that was so thick you could cut it with a knife! A day we won’t forget and a day that we remember Jake often and chuckle a little to be reminded of such a beautiful boy and his dream of building a submarine. I’m sure that he has since been successful.
Dear Cena- Yes, so many days to chuckle about so many long years ago. You were such a big part of his life in so many ways, as you are of ours. Thank you for helping keep his spirit and memory alive.