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May Your Candles Light the Way

Written by Tim Nixon, CMTE, Director of Flight Operations, LifeMed Alaska

A touching vigil on the opening night of AMTC: three hundred seventy four candles glowing on the beach, clustered in twos and threes, points of light under a brilliantly clear sky. Three hundred seventy four glowing reminders of our dead, each marked with a name and a date, surrounded by music and friends. A moving tribute for the few dozen assembled there.



A few of those candles were your world, and I want to know them. When we speak tell me their names, and let me tell you the names of mine. I want to hear their dates and their tail number, and all of the little details you tuck away in that place where you put things that you never want to forget. I want for you to hear my John’s thunderous laugh roar through my voice, see my eyes well with tears when I talk about Lance’s quiet perfectionism, and watch me beam when I speak of Cameron’s oversized smile and zest for life. I want to hear how your life shattered too the moment you got your news, and how your world hasn’t been the same without them. I like to know that you think about them every day, and about the rituals you do to honor them: the scholarship funds, the memorial walks, the wake you hold every year on the anniversary.

But know that I’ve heard all the stories before--and this morning, we woke to find three more candles have been added to the sand, three more names that we’ll Never Forget. Though the names and dates are different, the experience we share is the same.

What I most want to hear is what you’ve done to turn the pain of Never Forget into the honor of Always Remember. How do you find their candle on the beach, hold it high and make it burn brightly? How has the life they lost changed the one you live?

So let me tell you about how the candle I hold was always organized, but listen too when I tell you how his perfectionism drives me to find even better ways to secure my equipment. Then tell me in return how your candle’s flame burns more brightly as your memory of her attention to detail makes you pay more attention on your walk around.

That wonder that you recall in their eyes can’t save you—keeping your eyes out might. The stubbornness you remember so fondly won’t keep you out of trouble—standing up and saying “No, this is stupid, we’re turning around” will. Holding hands once a year and telling stories and crying a little won’t bring them back. But these things you do in their names—communicating and building good routines and practicing solid safety habits on every leg of every flight—will keep you from joining them.

We'll never forget what we’ve lost. But don’t forget to remember what’s important. Don’t hang your head and lament once again on the fragility of life—speak their names loudly while you do the practiced things that keep us all safe. Honor their memory every day by allowing them to make your vigilance something very, very personal.

The souls of the dead want not to be forgotten, but there is one thing they want more: they don’t want you to join them before your time. They don’t need you just to Never Forget that—they need you to Always Remember it. Find your candle, clear away the sand, and make it burn brighter in their memory.