Monday, October 25, 2010

Burning Candles

Since starting this blog, several people have asked if I would write one especially for them. That’s a hard thing to do, and my standard answer is, “let me mull it over,” which is my version of “maybe” which is mom-speak for “not happening in this lifetime.”  And just as I say that into my life an exception must fall.

A friend sent me his version of a story he heard from another friend. This conversation, he wrote, “just hit home and I don’t know why.” And he asked if I could “do something with it.”

The story told was of a truly good woman. She and her husband were just beginning that phase when all things are new again, but instead of setting off on that next adventure, she was diagnosed with ALS. The disease has progressed more rapidly than they hoped, and the adventure she is facing is not the one she and her husband had eagerly anticipated.

While visiting this good woman, and in the course of conversation, they spoke of all the candles the friend of my friend had given her over the years, ones brought back from world travels. And the good woman said, “I should have burned your candles.”

Truth is everyone has a candle that should’ve been burnt long ago, but sometimes you can’t bring yourself to do it. Perhaps the candle is too lovely. Perhaps it evokes a memory. Perhaps it’s just comforting to see it sitting in the same place waiting for just the right moment that never quite arrives.

It would be far too easy to pen some stale platitudes about wasting time or having bucket lists; I suspect the lady’s comment speaks to a different issue. It’s really about not using what we’re given. Whether it’s the gift of a candle, the gift of song, or even the gift of friendship, we often subvert the intent of the gift. We smile, we say “thank you,” then tuck it away. We hide behind the exterior loveliness, afraid we’ll use up that which has been handed to us.

Given trust, we repay with suspicion. Shown daylight, we linger in the shadows. Extended friendship, we mirror antipathy. When our heart of hearts recognizes a remedy proffered, we rarely accept it without first looking for attached strings. Given a candle, we put it on a shelf and never get around to lighting it.

The interesting thing about candles is that while they burn, they provide light, warmth, and if we’re very lucky, a bit of scent to spirit us away to another place. Lighting the candle and allowing it to burn is a commitment to letting the candle to do its job while giving ourselves permission to enjoy the experience.

With all my heart, I hope this good woman has enough quality time to burn every one of those candles.

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Day
It is easy to hoard things for a rainy day, 
it's difficult to determine when a day is rainy enough.

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