(8+1): The Shamash (The Attendent)

Candle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A menorah has candles for eight nights plus one. (Sorry, I learned never to include that other one in the count). Tonight I will talk about that extra one.

We call it a shamash candle or attendant or sometimes the servant candle. Its purpose is to stand at the ready when one of the other Channukah candles blow out prematurely. Its location is always nearby, yet still set apart to distinguish its importance.

Being a spouse, friend and even a caregiver–nay, a caregiver–we are always at the ready poised on the outside ready to step in when a situation arises that speaks to our calling.

As I noted yesterday, Hubby taught me about being a caregiver long before we knew what the word was. That was how it was through our entire marriage. We balanced each other back and forth. When his accident occurred, I think it took our support for each other to a whole next level. I still remember that day.

March 8, 2006. Today I am just barely three months pregnant. We have cautiously started telling people that we are expecting our first child after 20 years. (And having fun!) Hubby has been working at his new job from home now for shy over three months instead of five hours away in Jacksonville as he had for the past five years. A former student of mine is now helping me on a daily basis to make sure I’m okay while Hubby is at work and helps me to get things done.  I haven’t quite begun morning sickness yet. Things are humming along.

12:30 p.m. Hubby, working from home, decides he’s going to run up to the store on his motorcycle to get lunch. It’s only four miles from our house. He only has to go down a gated community road, go through the gate and cut through the parking lot to the strip mall.

1:20 p.m. I’m pregnant! I had to use the bathroom.

1:30 p.m. Finishing things up. The house phone rings. My cell phone rings. Another phone rings. Why does everyone call when I’m in the bathroom?!

1:35 p.m. Something told me to check the phone. There was a number I didn’t recognize. “Mrs. George, How are you? I am Police Officer with the county. Your husband was in an accident trying to get back in your gated community. How soon can you be here?”

3 p.m. approximately: I am now at the hospital walking down the corridor that I was sent down to see my husband. I come to a crossing of two hallways. I look to my right and my left. I saw two angels sitting on my shoulders. I continue forward. I watch as my husband is wheeled on a gurney into a room and as he turns coming from my left and then front of me into his room I see a huge swath of shirt pulled from his right shoulder exposing a very badly messed up shoulder. Friends with me said, “Look at his shoulder!”

My response, “I don’t care about his shoulder.  That’s road rash. I want to know about his spine.”  (Keep in mind I had not had any conversations with any medical personnel at this point as to my hubby’s condition.)

I learned throughout the rest of the day that his spine was injured not from being on a motorcycle, but from an idiot who was in a rush to enter our gated community and didn’t feel my husband was driving fast enough. I also learned that his spine was badly injured. Two days later he would be in five hours of surgery having two rods and two crossbars placed in his back from T-2 through T-10 (approximately from above the shoulder blades to down above his hips). Cross bars were placed at T-5 & T-7. The bones at T-5 and T-6 were shattered, nothing left.  T-7 was very badly damaged.

(Funny note: You should have seen the look on the neurosurgeon’s face when he told me the following: “I’ve been doing neurosurgery for 20 some years now coming from Duke and manning 500 bed hospitals. Your husband scared the crap out of me when he woke up >during< his surgery and started trying to climb off of the operating table. I have never had that happen to me. And I won’t repeat what I said to the staff to get him back to sleep!)

I still remember in the days and weeks following his surgery how many times I was told I can’t handle a paralyzed medically challenged man and pregnancy. I also remember the inordinate amount of times I was told to divorce him and move on.


I still remember my vows.  In sickness and in health; till death do us part.

Any man that fights that hard for me, I will fight that hard for him!

It was an honor to be the given the role of Shamash for him. For this six-and-a-half years I couldn’t have been given a better gift. I have no regrets. I am very at peace with the decision I made and would never look back.

Hubby taught me how to fight for my beliefs by believing in my fights. And now you know where that mantra comes from.

The Roaring Mouse

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8 Comments on "(8+1): The Shamash (The Attendent)"

Kathleen Whelan Ferris
Dec 9, 2012

You beautiful soul! You move my heart to tears as you describe the depth of your love and his for you. So few are so blessed with the purest, deepest and strongest love you shared. You are the Shamash, the beacon of hope and strength for many caregivers. Mazeltov, my dear friend!

Profile photo of ejourneys
Dec 9, 2012

I agree entirely with Kathleen. Bless you — for everything — and thank you for being such a blessing in my life.

Profile photo of Trish
Dec 9, 2012

Roaring Mouse, I’m amazed every time I learn more of your story. Thank you for teaching us this week! <3

Profile photo of Denise
Dec 10, 2012

RM, I just love this series. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I now have a very different perspective on “lights.” :)