Memories and Musings: A flickering candle

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 24, 2019

By Gene Gallelli

We could probably spend all day trying to define and reach agreement on what constitutes a miracle; the term has been used to describe the winning basket at the buzzer, or a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Whatever your preference, I encourage you to add “small acts of kindness” to the list.

Life-changing experiences need not be loud and bold, subject to fanfares, cheers and parades. More often than not it is simple acts of kindness that change a life and allow the sun to shine more brightly and the stars to twinkle more boldly than ever before.

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My bride of fifty-two years was very ill, preparing to cross the Rainbow Bridge, grasping at hope with her last ounce of strength. Oxygen-dependent and wheelchair-bound, she was spending final, happy days at home with family showing us all what strength and beauty should look like in a house filled with an oxygen generator and seemingly miles of plastic tubing.

One night at dinner, a wish I had made while staying at the marvelous Hope Lodge came true. (The Lodge, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, was near the hospital where my wife was receiving treatment before her last trip home and, in addition to all their other amenities and kindnesses, they also shuttled me daily to the hospital and back.)

Mornings at Hope Lodge — a beautiful, hope-filled and free respite to cancer patients and caregivers — allowed me to make a special new friend over coffee and donuts with a gentle lady who was receiving daily cancer treatments. Her wit and wisdom eased the pain of the previous night’s hospital visit. As we became better acquainted, our conversations become more relaxed and expository, so much so that one morning I said, “How I wish I could have one more meal with my wife over a romantic, flickering candle, clinking our glasses filled with her favorite cabernet!”

Then, the night I shall never forget, the night my dream came true, my bride and I clinked our glasses over a beautiful, flickering battery-operated glass candle that my coffee angel had left for me, wrapped in ribbon and tied with a bow, at Hope Lodge on my last day there.

Some acts of kindness are so beautiful that your heart can never fully understand their magic and glory. Their memories greet you in the morning and remain until evening’s last flicker of light. Sadly, I later learned that my new coffee friend had journeyed across the Rainbow Bridge and I’ll bet my last dollar that my bride was waiting on the other side to greet her.

Let us never forget the power of one to change a life forever and together let us try to everyday be someone’s “flickering candle.”

Gene Gallelli was Associate Superintendent of the Dare County Schools for eight years. He received his Doctor of Education degree from East Carolina University, where he taught and supervised students studying to become school administrators.