Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Reflections on Candles


Consider how we are beacons of hope for our patients and their loved ones as they navigate a potentially dark time in their lives. 

Candles serve many purposes. In the simplest sense, candles provide an enduring flame. The first candles extended the daylight so that work could continue. They created a safe path when the sun slept. Candles evolved into a symbol calling for community assembly to eschew darkness. Over time candles commemorated miracles, and more recently became memorials to events and relationships that were important.  


Candles also create ambience for celebrations. What’s a birthday cake without candles? What’s a romantic dinner without dancing taper flames? For some, candles are synonymous with religious observance. Sabbath candles, Mass candles, Kwanza candles, altar candles, and votive candles all have religious purpose. Small candles and large candles, some hefty and some delicate. 


Candles affect all of our senses. We see their light, feel their warmth, hear their flames crackle, smell their scent of beeswax or perfume. They lift us from the mundane and raise our hope. Candles give us pause to take in our setting. Why are we here, what’s the occasion? 


In this season of graduations and new beginnings, take a breath and pause to appreciate the candles. Consider how we become beacons for our patients who rely on us to help them find their way at twilight. Help them find their path as darkness descends. 








This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.