The Meaning of Family

  • My parents were the glue that kept our extended family together. With children and grandchildren scattered across the country in 8 different states, it’s always been a special occasion when we’re all together.

    This past weekend I spent time in Pennsylvania to attend a memorial service for my father who passed away a few weeks ago. Joined by my four siblings, our children and grandchildren, we sat together under a canopy at the gravesite where my father’s ashes were to be interred, alongside our mother who passed away less than a year ago.

    As part of a beautiful service, we held candles and passed the light from the main candle by my parents’ photo, throughout the canopy, until all of the candles were lit.

    As we shared gratitude for these two amazing people, our candles dripped along with our tears.

    As the winds of life blew through the canopy, one candle after the next would blow out temporarily, only to be relit by a flame from another candle. At some point during the service each one of us lost our individual flame, only to be relit and supported by another family member. There was never a time when all of the flames were unlit. Someone always carried the light when the others blew out.

    I found it such a tangible reminder that we are not alone. I was concerned that our family would fall apart without the glue of my parents, but what came forth, was something so beautiful and such a gift to all of us. I realized that we were each given a part of the light that was once cared for by our parents.

    Just as with the candles, no matter what the winds may blow our way, the light that my parents imparted to each of us is there for us to share with each another and to relight one another when we’re in need.

    It was as if God was sending me a very personal message…. That I’m not alone. I know the flame from our parents’ candle is spread far and wide, so much so that it can never go out, for it will always burn brightly within one of us.

    Whether we’re fortunate to have many siblings and extended family, or whether we create our own “family” of friends, it’s nice to know that there will always be someone, somewhere who can light our candle when we need it.

    In the midst of the sorrow, I’m blessed by the support of a loving family, friends and this beautiful community. Thank you for your expressions of sympathy. From my heart to yours, know that I’ll be here carrying the flame if and when you ever need to relight your candle.

    Photo Credit: Shawn Carpenter

    Gail Lynne Goodwin

    Gail Lynne Goodwin is the founder of, bringing the best inspiration to the world. provides free inspiration, each day from a new Inspirational Luminary, to a global community of folks from over 150 countries. Gail has interviewed many well-known names including Sir Richard Branson, Guy Laliberte, Seth Godin, Tony Hseih, Gary Vaynerchuk, Michael Gerber, Marci Shimoff, Jack Canfield and hundreds more. According to Mashable, Gail was one of 2009's Top 25 Most Inspirational People on Twitter. Prior to, Gail spent several years as manager for her recording artist daughter, Carly. As a result of the success of their co-penned song, "Baby Come Back Home", Gail accompanied her daughter to bases in the US and to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where Carly performed for our troops. Gail and Carly created the 'World's Longest Letter' of love and support and delivered the 18-mile long scroll on a month-long tour of Iraq and the Persian Gulf in 2006. Gail is excited to present her latest course, Love in 21 Days, a step-by-step guide to finding love online. Love in 21 Days is founded on a logical process that has been tested - and proven! - by not only Gail, but also by students around the world who too have found love. Gail is a published author and a regular writer for the Huffington Post. She offers mentoring and mastermind services to clients worldwide from her home in Whitefish, Montana. Follow Gail on Twitter or Google+.

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    1. Carol Coe Pugh
      Carol Coe Pugh says:

      Oh goodness, what a lovely analogy! Thank you for your beautiful description of such a sad but meaningful event. Best wishes to you and your family as you navigate these uncharted waters of being a family without your parents.

    2. Laura Morris
      Laura Morris says:

      Hi Gail,

      First of all, I want to express my condolences for your loss. I can appreciate your post so much and relate to your feelings of gaining strength from your wonderful family gathered together.That’s such an amazing thing that the candle flame never went out!
      I was by my 93 year old mother’s bedside last December for 10 days along with my big sister to help her through the transition into heaven. We are a very small family, but strong in our feelings and thoughts. My mother’s presence has been with us all since the moment she passed away. My mom had a way of always giving me spiritual strength, and now that she’s gone, I can feel it even more.
      I know that your mother and dad are together just as sure as I am typing this, and hope that you continue to be comforted by your amazing family’s strength.
      I enjoyed this blog post very much!

    3. C. J. Ortiz
      C. J. Ortiz says:

      I once went through a painful separation from my wife of 25 years in which I could not see how any good could from it. As time went on, I began to see my sons step up into roles—and embrace responsibility—they never did before. The reality was that I was carrying so much of the load as husband and father that were always relaxed and secure… “Dad will take care of it.”

      In a sense, I was sort of stifling their desire and will to enter their next season of manhood. Granted, there are MUCH BETTER ways for them to do that then through a personal tragedy, but I am delighted to see their growth as men.

      Maybe the passing of your parents inspired your siblings to step into that role—almost like the transfer of a mantle or godly burden. My condolences to you and yours. Thanks for sharing.


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