He Left the Candle Burning

By | August 23, 2018
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He Left the Candle Burning

He left the candle burning, just as she had asked him to do. Though it had been seven years since she went away, every evening at nightfall he would light a candle. Every night while he tried to sleep through his pain and his loneliness, the candle flickered silently casting its dancing shadows upon the walls and on the ceiling in the quiet hours.

If the wind from the open window blew the candle out, he lit the candle again. Many times when he relit the candle, he would wipe a tear from his cheek, and fall into bed exhausted. Yet he knew that this night, like most other nights, sleep would never come.

He lay awake watching the ballet of shadows dancing in the candlelight as he had done so many nights before. And on some nights he’d listen to the wind breathing in the boughs of the barren branches of the tree she had planted just outside their bedroom window, one spring day long ago and now, so far away.

Other nights he’d watch the ghostly shadows dance while a concerto of raindrops rhythmically pounded on the roof and ran in little rivers and rivulets as they raced to the ground below. When he watched the silver shimmer of the rain he would think his lonely thoughts – once again – in the quiet hours.

He left the candle burning.

He was always thinking – as if thinking would ease the loneliness or fill his empty days. He found the quiet hours of the night inspired many a pensive thought. If only she hadn’t gone away. If only he’d have known, perhaps he would have seen it coming and he could have done some things differently.

If only. If only. If only.

He felt as if his entire life was nothing but an unfinished list of “if onlys”. If only he could just close his eyes and fall asleep, he might find a brief respite from this rapacious loneliness. If only sleep would visit him he could seek refuge in the numb and thoughtless world of sleep. If only he could close his eyes and drift into that deep solace of sleep.

If only.

All the quiet hours he had spent since she went away had not been good to him – or good for him. He withdrew more and more into the world of shadowy dances and concerts of rain and wind. He spent his days reading through volumes of books that he had once read with her. There was a pile of magazines, several feet high, in the corner that he had saved because she had circled articles in them for him to read later and then discuss with her.

They shared everything. Then she went away. They had shared everything from ice cream cones on hot, still summer nights to snowflakes wafting down on frosty, frigid winter mornings.

They shared so many sunsets and sunrises and walks through woods in all seasons – he couldn’t possibly remember them all. The folded into and onto and around each other – all special parts of a special life together, and now all blurred by time, and dimmed and seasoned with longing and loneliness. Holding hands and sharing themselves with each other, life was dreamy on steamy summer nights and warm and soft on dark white winter nights. Life was such a gift to him then; life was a gift to be shared. And he shared it with her. They had a love for all seasons. A love for all time. And he loved her for all the right reasons.

While she was here he tried to drink in and savor every minute with her as if each moment would be the last. His eyes filled with tears as he thought of her and those halcyon days of life, love and conversation, on those beautiful days of sharing and caring.

He really tried hard to savor and save every second – like a solitary mountain man stocking up supplies for a long and brutal winter. But no one can ever savor something so wonderful and special quite enough.

He was left wishing he could have savored more and saved more and kept it all locked up inside so he could relive those magic moment again and again – over and over. But life isn’t fair. You can’t bring back what once was. You can’t turn today into yesterday. You have no tomorrow. You have only the present – this tiny speck of “now” to live.

Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never be.

Now while the shadows danced on the wall, all he had left of her were the memories. The memories were fading and he couldn’t stop them from fading. Memories growing fainter were all he had as he reflected to the darting shadows and mused to the rhythm of the strange, oddly amplified sounds of the night.

The tree outside the window is barren, its life sucked out by the howling winds one stormy night – and by the unusually early and unseasonably cold autumn that crept in on cat’s paws on an early October morning. The branches scrape against the siding of the house in a cascade of strange and moribund moans.

Sleep would not visit him this night. He knew that sleep would never come willingly anymore. The longing grew deeper and the loneliness turned to despair. Yet, every night he kept the candle burning because she has asked him to. He would keep the candle burning for her for as long as he had life.

The shadows danced and the flame flickered and the branches rattled and moaned – and fleeting glimpses of memory tormented him.

He picked up a tattered, folded piece of paper that he kept on his nightstand and read again the words she had written to him, just few weeks before she went away.

Leave the Candle Burning

Leave the candle burning
Don’t let the fire die;
Memories are yearning
In my love’s sweet lullaby.

Leave the candle burning
Until I come home to you.
Keep the candle burning
For the love that we once knew.

Leave the candle burning
And keep it burning bright.
Keep the candle burning —
And I’ll return one night.

Keep the candle burning
For our love. For you and I
The flame of life may flicker
But our love will never die.

It didn’t seem like seven years had passed since she went away. Time had always passed so quickly when they were together. These last seven years seemed like twenty and seven years…  and each sleepless night seemed an eternity. Each day seemed like an endless emptiness of yearnings and longings and memories.

He thought often about the beginning. He thought about the unlikely way they had met as if fate had touched him at least once. He never felt he was a lucky man but that night must have been an anomaly. He was the luckiest man on Earth at least that one time in his life. His life had been enriched far more by her than it ever could have been by millions of dollars. Yes, he had been a lucky man at least once in his life.

He thought about the first couple of years as they grew closer to each other. Sometimes they both were amazed by their closeness. He thought about the disappointments, rough times, harsh words – the betrayals and missed opportunities. How meaningless they all seemed now.

The years had washed away the hurts and disappointments and tears. There were doubts and fears too. Doubts and fears – always the monsters that love struggles to conquer. The good times, the loving times, the wonderful times and years of smiles, laughter and love between them had made those early disappointments, doubts and fears seem almost risible.

If only we could see as clearly what lies ahead as we can see that which has gone before.

If only. If only. If only.

If only he had seen the end coming he might have been able to do something to keep her from going away – he might have been lying here with her listening to the music of the night, instead of riding these sad shadows of loneliness.

He used to watch her sleeping and listen to her breathing – such a peaceful feeling. Such an enchanted time. The melancholy strains of a song drifted through is mind: “To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn, and a time for every purpose under heaven…”

What mattered most to him was gone. She went away seven years ago on an autumn night much like this one – while winter waited at their door, She left him without saying goodbye. She left him with only a soft sigh and whispered words he could not understand. She took a breath and then she went away.

The candle is still burning. The fire will not die.

The candle flickers softly in the sullen,silent night. Watching the shadows dancing on the wall, he waits for her return. Tossing and turning he waits for sleep to come but knows it will not come this night. He knows she will not return this night – nor any night.

She’s gone.

He left the candle burning. He won’t let the fire die. In the dancing shadows the glow of hope is fading — but the memories and love live on.

5 thoughts on “He Left the Candle Burning

  1. Toby Frank

    Just Beautiful. A tribute to love and to make us all think to enjoy each and every day we have with out love ones.

  2. Sharon King

    This hit me hard as I lost the love of my life of 50 years this past month. So many feelings can not be put into words but this was well done. Day by day, hour by hour with the help of God we move on whether we want to go or not. Thank you..


    What a beautiful tribute to love lost. I would suspect that you have been touched by such a loss in your lifetime and poured your heart into this. God bless you for sharing this, TC.

  4. Louise

    You know, my love of 50 years, left me 13 years ago, i think of him everyday and i feel blessed for the years i was with him…i do enjoy every day i have left and smile every time i think of him..

  5. Stephen White

    This is a lovely yet sad story…my wife & I have been married 48 years and I’d be very lost without her


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