Leave the Candle Burning

By | January 27, 2022
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Leave 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 dancing shadows upon the walls in the quiet hours.

He lit the candle again, wiped a tear from his cheek, and fell into bed exhausted. Yet he knew that this night, like most other nights, sleep would not come.

He lay awake watching the ballet of shadows – again. Some nights he’d listen to the wind breathing in the boughs of barren branches of the tree she had planted outside their bedroom window -one spring day long ago and now, so far away. Other nights he’d watch the shivering shadows dance while a concerto of raindrops, rhythmically pounded on the roof and ran in little rivers and rivulets and raced to the ground below. He’d watch the silver shimmer of the rain and think lonely thoughts 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 pensive thought. If only she hadn’t gone away. If only he’d have known, perhaps he could have done something differently.

If only. If only. If only.

He felt as if his entire life was an unfinished list of “if onlys”. If only he could just close his eyes and fall asleep, he could find 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 the 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 shadow dances and concerts of rain and wind. He spent his days reading through volumes of books 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 and then discuss with her.

They shared everything. Then she went away. They had shared everything from ice cream cones on hot and humid summer nights to snowflakes on frigid winter mornings. They shared so many sunsets and sunrises and walks through woods in all seasons – he couldn’t possibly remember them all. They folded into and onto each other – all special parts of a special life together – now blurred by time, dimmed by 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 white winter nights. Life was a gift to him then, a gift to be shared. And he shared it with her. They had a love for all seasons. He loved her for all the right reasons.

He tried to drink it in and savor every minute with her as if each one would be his last. His eyes filled with tears as he thought of her and those silvern days of love and conversation, those beautiful days of sharing and caring. He tried to savor and save every second – like a solitary mountain man stocking up supplies for a long and brutal winter. But no one can savor something so good and special quite enough. He was left wishing he could have savored more and saved it all up inside so he could relive those magic moments again and again. Life isn’t fair. You can’t bring back what has gone. You can’t turn today into yesterday. You have only the present – this one speck of “now” — to live. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.

Now, while the shadows danced on this wall, all he had left of her were the memories dancing in his mind. He quickly used up his precious store of memories as he reflected watching the darting shadows on the wall and mused to the rhythm of the strange and 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 this unusually early and unseasonably cold autumn. 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 easily anymore. The longing grew deeper and 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 lived.

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 a 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
‘Til 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 —
I will 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 each sleepless night seemed an eternity and each day seemed like an 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 so 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 his 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 tonight. He knows she will not return tonight or any night.

Still, he left the candle burning. He won’t let the fire die. In the dancing shadows, the glow of hope may dim and flicker — but the memories and the love will always live on.

4 thoughts on “Leave the Candle Burning

  1. Nora

    Funny I should be reading this right now. It’s 5am in the morning. My husband died seven years ago this Feb. 2. I haven’t slept well since. Gone, poof! No warning! Many of the same things you spoke about crossed my mind. I’m sorry for your loss. She must have been a very special light shining bright in your life and now in your dreams! Seven years I’ve left a candle burning. It’s not a real one but it flickers in my window so he will always know where I am.

    1. Enis Bare

      So sorry for your loss. I also lost the love of my life on the day of our 48th Anniversary. That was 2012, seems like only yesterday. I did re-marry, but, now I also struggle with regrets of re-locating some distance from my two adult children….I am a retired R.N., and, I worked during our Sars outbreak ( in a very busy emergency department), I am 75 years old , still full of life and good health, I would like to help out with the medical craziness, but, I am apparently ” all washed up”… now I mourn that loss as well… Life sucks sometimes.

  2. Dorothy

    This was a lovely article of writing you shared. thanks to the author. There was a mystery to it. Did the girl live from death, or did she leave because she did not want to stay? It is sad and the emotions come through well. One feels sorry for the fellow who is so sad. Thank you.

  3. lorena hawes

    this reading is so very true. It has been 22 years March since the ‘light of my life’ faded and was gone. The candle in the window of my heart still burns so he will know where I am and that I await our reunion anxiously, through long sleepless nights and long lonely days. Rena


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