Broken Candles
2005-08-03 - 6:03 p.m.

Two Christmases before my grandmother died, I gave her a box of nice hand-dipped taper candles along with a note, which read, "Nana--to burn, not to save. Love, Jennifer." She was (in)famous for buying candles and putting them away for "the rigth occasion," never actually burning them. When she died, my mom and I found boxes of candles in the house. It would take years to burn them all.

Last summer, when we were in Wisconsin, I bought two candles for the bathroom. One blue and one white, lovely smelling and poured into pretty glasses, the two have sat on my bathroom counter for a year. Never has a match graced their wicks. They were too pretty. Thursday, while Kirk and I were working on filling nail holes and priming woodwork, I knocked the white candle into the sink, shattering its glass holder.

Thursday night, I stood in front of the counter, brushing my teeth and contemplating the broken candleholder. I wondered if I could still burn it somehow, if I removed all the glass or placed the whole thing into something else. Suddenly, the images of my grandmother's candle boxes rose in my head.

After David died, I told my old roommated that I'd had enough--that I got it. Life is short. Live it to its fullest. You never know if there's going to be a tomorrow, so enjoy today. All the little stuff--not important. I didn't need to lose anyone else to know that. And yet, three years later, here I was, standing in the bathroom Kirk and I have worked so hard to create, holding a candle I was only willing to burn after it had been ruined.

I guess I hadn't learned much.

I thought to myself, "burn the fucking candle, Jennifer." Then I laughed at myself and counted myself lucky that at least all it took to remind me of this very important fact was a broken candle this time around.

So now I'm at today.

My mom's and my very good friend C has been having horrific, progressively worsening back pain that no medication, not even lidocaine patches directly on her spine, has been able to touch. She's been getting the brush off and the run around from her doctors for weeks--months--at this point. Last week, it hit the point where she couldn't sleep, couldn't even lay down, couldn't walk without excruciating pain.

Today--one week, a couple MRIs, a boatload of tests, six doctors, and two different hospitals later, on the morning of her birthday--C was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

Since this morning, I have learned that myeloma is an odd type of cancer. Specifically a blood disease, it also (among other things) attacks your bones, essentially "eating" holes into them and causing tiny fractures. There is no *cure* for myeloma. Until fairly recently, a myeloma diagnosis was essentially a death sentence, though there are now a few treatment options that might make living with it possible, even probable. If she's the right kind of candidate, which is information we don't yet know.

So here I sit, broken candle in the bathroom and heart heavy in my chest, reminding God and all the forces of nature once again that I GET IT!

If you have any spare good thoughts, send them C's way, would you? And if you have any personal experience with multiple myeloma that might make me feel a teensy bit less hopeless, I'd love to hear about it...


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