Light a Little Candle


Sam Carter pulled into the parking lot of the Colorado Springs Kids' Care daycare and sighed before turning off the engine. She had been going through this routine for two months now, but she still wasn't really used to it. As much as she'd always wanted to be a mother, she'd never wanted it this way - having to take care of a shrunken Doctor Daniel Jackson who didn't remember anything - at least not consciously - about being an adult. She'd gladly taken him in, of course; he was her best friend. But she still couldn't shake the feeling that this chance at fulfilling one of her dreams had come at too high a price.

"Mama Sam! Mama Sam!" little six-year-old Daniel cried as she walked into the building a few minutes later. "Amber wasn't here today, Mama Sam, and she didn't go to school, either," he told her as he ran over to her and wrapped his arms around her legs. She'd long since learned to stop moving when he called out to her, or they'd both end up in a heap on the floor. The boy was the only one who found that situation funny.

"Maybe she didn't feel well, Danny," she told him, running one hand through the child's soft blond locks while accepting his tiny backpack from one of the smiling workers. "She might have been sick."

"Do you know?" Danny insisted, like he always did when he suspected the adults around him were either guessing or making things up. It drove Vala up the walls; she still couldn't pull anything over on the miniaturized archaeologist.

Sam shrugged and began to lead him out to the car. "Not for sure, Danny. I didn't even know she wasn't here until you told me."

Danny blinked. "Oh." The fact that he'd know something before his Mama Sam had never occurred to him before. "Can you find out?"

"I wouldn't be surprised if she came back tomorrow. You can find out from her then." Sam made quick work of getting Danny into his booster seat and buckled in before sliding behind the steering wheel.

"But I wanna know now, please," Danny insisted politely as she started the vehicle. "Amber's a good, good friend and I wanna make her feel better if she's sick. It felt so good when you were with me when I was sick before I firs' met Doctor Car'lyn. I want Amber to feel good like that, too."

Uh, oh. Sam easily recognized a typical Daniel Jackson crusade starting when she heard it. It didn't matter how old he was, when he decided what the right course of action was in a particular situation, he went for it. No matter what stood in his way. General O'Neill would more than attest to that, probably with a grumble about stubborn civilians for good measure.

She decided it was easier to give in than fight this one. "I'll give Amber's mother a call when we get home, okay?"

Danny grinned at her in the rear view mirror. "Thank you, Mama Sam. I know Amber'll thank you, too. Can I go see her?"

"Not tonight, buddy. Cam, Teal'c, and Vala are coming over for dinner, and I'll need your help to get things ready. If Amber's okay I'll see if you can talk to her on the phone, though."

"Okay, Mama Sam," Danny agreed, seeing the sense behind the compromise. He couldn't let Mama Sam do all that work alone, after all. He was a big boy, and Mama Sam had been so nice to let him live with her when he was so scared he'd have to go away and not know anybody anymore. The least he could do is let her work less for him. Besides, he'd still get to help Amber feel better, just with his words instead of the hug he'd originally wanted to give.

"Now what should we get for dessert?"

That sparked a discussion about supper that lasted all the way to the grocery store.

* * * * * * * *

Danny hung up the phone slowly when he finished talking to his friend a little while later. His brows were furrowed, and his expression was troubled. Sam came in from the kitchen at that point and quickly figured out something was wrong. "Danny, what is it?" she asked, crouching down to look him in the eye. Amber herself had answered the phone, so Sam hadn't had the chance to ask her mother about the girl's absence.

The boy swallowed then shifted his troubled gaze to her. "Amber says her friend Becca went away. She had to say goodbye to her today, and that's why she couldn't be at school or day care." Sam fought down her involuntary gasp at the revelation. "What did Amber mean? Where did Becca go?"

Sam suddenly remembered the news story about the little girl a few blocks over that had died over the weekend from a previously unknown allergic reaction to latex. She'd had no idea that Danny might have known her. "Was... was Becca your friend, too?" she asked softly.

"No, Becca lived 'cross the street from Amber so she went to a different school. Amber talked about her, though. Where'd she go?" Danny stared at his guardian eanestly.

"Oh, Danny," Sam whispered, tears starting to well up in her eyes. She was only glad her boy hadn't really known Becca Williamson. What she was about to tell him wouldn't hurt quite as much. She wasn't foolish enough to believe it wouldn't hurt him at all, though. Daniel was Daniel, no matter the age. "I'm afraid Becca died this last weekend. Something she touched made her very, very sick all at once, and she didn't get better. Today was her funeral, where everyone who knew and loved her could say goodbye."

Something deep in Danny's bright blue eyes clicked at the explanation, and his expression became knowing. Sam just hoped he wasn't remembering anything from his own past. "That's why Amber was so sad," he said in a surprisingly-mature voice. "She doesn't have her friend with her anymore." He paused and thought for a moment. "Becca's mama and papa and brothers and sisters are sad now, too, aren't they?" he asked, his eyes dropping to the floor.

Sam's heart broke at the empathy she heard in his tone, but she knew she couldn't keep what else she knew from him. Something told her that this child was going to find out everything he could about Becca and what happened to her, and Sam preferred he hear what facts she knew from her instead of reading it somewhere. "I read an article in the paper about it a few days ago, Danny. Becca only had her mother. Her daddy died a few years ago, and she didn't have any brothers or sisters."

Danny gasped in horror. "Then Becca's mama is all alone?" he cried. "She's sad and crying and all alone?" Sam flinched when she saw the shadow of Daniel's own first heartbreak form in his eyes. She knew he didn't really remember his parents' deaths and being alone afterward, but apparently it was somewhere in his subconscious, like they suspected all of his adult memories were. "No! No, she can't be alone! She'll hurt too much!" He spun and ran to his room, the sound of the door slamming echoing through the house.

"Danny," she called to him softly when she entered his room a few moments later. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything."

"No," the boy's muffled voice refuted from where his face was buried in his pillow. "I asked. You promised not to lie when I ask questions."

"I know, but I don't like to hurt you, either," Sam said as she sat on the edge of the small bed that she'd brought into her guest room when she'd agreed to it becoming Daniel's new bedroom.

"I know," Danny whispered, turning his head slightly to the side to look at the woman out of the corner of one eye. "Being alone scares me." The admission was even softer, just barely audible.

Sam took the statement as an invitation to physically comfort him. She reached out and gently rubbed his back between his shoulder blades. "That's why I'm here for you, Danny. I'll do my best to always be here for you."

Danny swallowed and nodded, turning his head completely to the side so his cheek rested on the pillow. "I wanna be there for Becca's mama."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," Sam said, shaking her head. "I don't think that would be a good idea. She has her mom and dad, and I think she has a couple of brothers, too. Strangers might make it worse for her." She sighed and tried to explain further when she saw the confused look on the boy's face. "Sometimes when people who didn't know the person who died try to help, the person who feels bad ends up feeling worse. See, the stranger never knew the person who died, or the person who's hurting, and so they can say or do things that just hurt more, even when they're trying not to."

"I don't wanna do that," Danny said, his eyes wide. Then he considered it again. "And... and I guess a little kid like me might make her think of Becca and make her ever sadder," he said slowly. He sighed. "I just wanna help."

Sam smiled down on him. "I know you do, and I'm so proud of you for it. Why don't you send her a card telling her you're sorry for her loss? Sometimes that's enough. You can even make it yourself. I'll get you some cardstock and you can use your colored pencils."

Danny nodded. "Okay, Mama Sam. But I wanna make sure it's perfect, so it might take a little while."

"Just make sure it doesn't take too long. Other than that, it shouldn't be a problem." She straightened. "Now why don't we wash our faces and finish getting ready for supper? The others will be here soon." The boy got up, and they did just that.

* * * * * * * *

A week later, Danny read an article in the paper, and it gave him a wonderful idea. He asked Amber a few questions at day care, then later that day asked Sam if he could have a little money. "What do you need it for?" she replied to the request.

"I can't tell you yet. It's a surprise."

"Am I going to like it?" Sam asked with a twinkle in her eyes.

Danny smiled a bit shyly. "I think you will."

Sam nodded. "Then we'll go to the mall after supper. You find what you need, then tell me how much money you need. I promise to try not to look."

Danny agreed, and that night his purchase was made. The next Saturday he had a play date with Amber, and his surprise was hidden in his backpack. When the time had almost come for Sam to pick him up and his friend had disappeared into the bathroom to clean up for supper, the blond boy slipped out of the house and across the street to where he had been told Becca's mama lived. He knocked on the door and waited for a response.

"Hello, can I help you?" Jennifer Williamson asked when she opened the door and found a young boy standing there. She'd seen him a few times visiting the girl across the street, but didn't know who he was.

"I want to tell you something," Danny said simply, smiling shyly. He pulled a small, purple candle out of his backpack. "I read that tomorrow is the Worldwide Candle Lighting for people who lost a little girl or boy, and Amber told me that Becca's favorite color was purple. I'm gonna light a purple candle tomorrow night at seven o'clock to remember her, and I'm giving ones to my Mama Sam, and Amber, and her mama and papa and sister. I wanted to make sure you knew someone was thinking of her." He handed her the candle he held. "That's so you can light a candle, too, if you want to. I know you remember her all the time, but this way she'll know it, too."

Jennifer swallowed a sob and stared at the candle in her hand. The thought of the flame that could light the wick reminded her of the light her daughter had brought into her life, a light that had been so cruely extinguished far too soon. Maybe this would be a way to light it again, in her heart at least. She dropped to her knees and drew the sincere little boy into a tight embrace. "You sweet, sweet boy," she said into his hair. Nothing anyone else had said to her up to that point had touched her so deeply. She had a feeling that lighting that candle might also spark a chance to heal in time. She pulled back and looked at him from arms' length. "Your Mama Sam is very lucky," she whispered. She struggled to take a deep breath and hold back her tears. "I'll light the candle tomorrow at seven, just like you said." She hugged Danny one more time, then rose shakily to her feet. "And thank you for wanting to remember my little Becca. It means everything." With that she could say no more. She choked out a quick apology and hurried inside, the door unintentionally shutting forcefully in the boy's face.

Danny took no offense. He just smiled, knowing Becca's mama had understood his gift and appreciated it. He then returned to his friend's house, fully intent on distributing his candles. The next night would be special, he knew; Becca and her mama deserved it.


I read about this in a recent Dear Abby column and thought I would tell you about it, especially since it inspired my latest fic. Coming up is the Worldwide Candle Lighting sponsored by The Compassionate Friends, a non-profit self-help bereavement organization with 600 chapters in the United States, and a national presence in nearly 30 countries around the world.

The Worldwide Candle Lighting is held at 7 p.m. local time for one hour on the second Sunday in December (this year, 2007, falls on Dec. 9), creating a 24-hour wave of light in remembrance of all children who have died, no matter their age or the cause of death. Also available that day at The Compassionate Friends Web site will be a remembrance book where visitors can post a message in memory of the child who died. 

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