A journey of compassion…

I recently discovered this Sunday is Worldwide Candle Lighting Day.

As a big lover of candles I thought it sounded interesting so I did some digging around to find out more.

It’s a virtual 24-hour global candle lighting ceremony, symbolising compassionate support for each other by families grieving the loss of a child.

A burning tealight
Worldwide Candle Lighting Day. Photo by Ann Lund.

It’s celebrated on the second Sunday of December and was originally created as a ‘day’ in 1997 in the United States.

But the history goes back much further than that.

It all began in my home county of Warwickshire, in the UK.

In May of 1968 the Reverend Simon Stephens, a chaplain at the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital in England, recognised a unique opportunity to bring two sets of grieving parents together whose sons each lay dying in the same hospital.

The comfort and support that they experienced by sharing their loss helped lessen their grief, and they wanted to share this with other bereaved parents.

Reverend Stephens facilitated this and in January 1969, The Compassionate Friends organisation was formed.

I grew up approximately 13 miles (21.5 kilometres) out of Coventry and have to admit – I don’t remember this hospital.

A quick search led me to discover it opened in 1867, and sustained extensive damage through the Coventry Blitz in the Second World War.

It closed in 2006 with the completion of a new University Hospital, and the listed buildings that remained have since been converted into student accommodation.

There are some amazing photographs of the old hospital – but what I find quite scary is some of the photos taken were in the 1980s and ’90s – but they look so old. Maybe it’s because they are in black and white?

Then I discovered some of the windows of the surviving buildings had crocodile carvings over them, but no-one seems to know why (a quick Google Maps search shows the carvings have been preserved in the conversion).


Coming back to Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, I wondered if The Compassionate Friends operate in Australia.

I discovered not only that they do, but that there’s a chapter in every state and territory.

An event is being held in Brisbane this Sunday for Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, and there’s also a bench in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mount Coot-tha, with the inscription:

The Compassionate Friends Queensland

May 1985 – May 2000

15 years of supporting bereaved parents and families

“Remembering our children with love”

Having been to the Gardens many times, and never seeing this, I now feel compelled to go back and find it.

What an amazing journey this particular day (that I’d never previously heard of) has taken me on.

Back to my home roots of Warwickshire, to a hospital I wasn’t aware of, that had crocodile carvings no-one seems to know anything about – then back to Australia and now a quest to find a bench.

I will be also be lighting a candle this Sunday.

Not because I’ve had such a tragic loss personally, but more because when we come together to share and help each other it really can help.

Yesterday I guided my last community meditation for the year, and we shared a metta meditation, offering loving compassion to ourselves and others.

What a fitting week in which to do it🙏


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