Malee struck a match and held the flame beneath the soaked twine until the fire danced along the ring. The sides of the simple box lantern glowed, revealing the markings written on each side. Each side held a name and each name held a lifetime of memories. For each of them were a part of her.
Preeda had died when they were young. All Malee could remember of her oldest and favorite sister was a joyful smile. Every memory contained those perfectly white teeth. She was always smiling. The thought of her spread warmth throughout Malee’s now weathered features. She found her own smile again, but it was never as big as Preeda’s.
Sunan was the name of her child who had never seen sunlight. He was her second son. He passed away, softly, in another hospital room while Malee sat in her own and listened to doctors tell her she would never have another child.
Arthit, her first-born, passed away in a truck accident while returning home from work late one night. Malee had been on her way to visit him in America and meet her future daughter-in-law. Instead of a wedding, she spent the two weeks arranging his funeral. She had not seen Arthit in two years.
Somchai was with her as they buried both of their sons. He gave her strength enough to endure that heartbreak while he endured the loss of his sons alone. God tested her when Somchai died. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Three years ago.
Malee lifted the lantern and let it slowly drift into the sky joining the thousands of others that bore the memories of the living. Bright stars against the night. She knew that, as the lanterns crossed beyond her world, her family would find their names and know that she was okay. She knew in her heart that she would be seeing them soon.