Light up a life

We buried my mother yesterday and her funeral, as befitted this beloved woman, was beautiful, dignified, prayerful and filled with love and friendship. All these characteristics she possessed in abundance and they are her legacy to her family who grieve her loss so deeply.

I woke this morning  to a terrible sense of desolate loss and emptiness, wondering what I do now.  A funeral provides a structure to grieving that is so necessary, but in the Christian tradition that is all too brief. The Jewish practice of Shiva seems far more fitting at this time – a seven-day period of intense mourning to guide mourners through the loss and pain and gradually ease them back into the world.

I realized while reading some more about the tradition, that my family have been following some of the observances instinctively in our mourning. The first thing we did when we arrived back at my parents’ house the day my mother died was to light a candle and we have kept one burning since. In the Jewish tradition, a memorial candle is lit for the duration of Shiva to represent the deceased’s soul and as a reminder that their soul is eternal.

My mother’s last days were spent in the care of Our Lady’s Hospice in Dublin and next Sunday, 4th December, their annual Light Up a Life ceremony will take place. The Christmas tree which stands in its grounds will be lit up with thousands of sparkling lights, shining for loved ones we have lost.

This year, they have launched a website to spread the light around the world and so that people will be able to record their precious memories and share them with a supportive international community of family and friends.

If you would like to remember your own lost dear ones by sponsoring a light in their memory, you can do so at

Once again, I want to thank you all for the kindness, support, love and friendship you have shown to me over the past difficult weeks. What you have written both here and in emails to me are words I have taken deeply to heart and they will continue to comfort and strengthen me in the sad days to come.