When my grandfather died I was devastated. He was the only grandpa I had, as far as I could remember, since my dad’s father had died when I was eleven months old. To me grandpa was unique and very special. He had this soft and gentle nature and even now more than 40 years later I recall the little mole he had on his cheek, the one we kids used to press with our index finger, so grandpa could make a buzzer sound that would make us laugh and cheer for more.
One day my father, with a serious look on his face, gathered with me and my siblings at the kitchen table, to tell us grandpa had died. Until then no one close to me ever had died and this new experience threw me of balance in such a manner, that my father had to take me aside for a one on one talk.
When my dad realized I could not understand what had happened and I needed to know why, he told me to compare life with a burning candle. Sitting side by side on the couch in our living room, he told me this; in the beginning every candle is strong and straight with firm wax and a fresh wick. At birth every candle receives a flame and slowly it starts to burn down. With time, depending on how strong the candle is and on its location, it will have to battle the elements around it, such as the impact of the sun light it is placed in, or the draft caused by an open window or door. If a candle is too weak, or the impact is too strong, the little flame might extinguish too early. This is why sometimes people die young. As the candle gets older, the wax gets softer, changing shape and colour. It slowly gets smaller and eventually the wick will have a hard time holding the flame. Sometimes a door needs to open just a little to extinguish the candle, and sometimes the wick carries the flame until there is no wax to burn left. This is why people die when they are old.
It was a simple explanation and my life went on without my grandfather. Although I missed him, I understood that what had happened was part of life. As a child I was living in the moment, no real looking back. As a teenager I started to long for the future and as a young adult I lived and worked hard for what lay ahead of me.
While the wax of my candle slowly melted, my focus in life was definitely ahead of time. As life progresses I started to realize that the wax isn’t melting slowly anymore and that the length of my candle has come down quit a bit. I am also more aware of the elements impacting my flame and understand that my life now wants me to focus on the moment again. Instead of just burning down, my candle should also shine a little light.
I have come to the part in my life where the future is less important than the present and looking back is unavoidable. I guess being middle aged, that is what you do once in a while. But then what is middle aged? Didn’t my father explain to me we don’t know when our flame will extinguish?
Certainly my candle has burned at least half way and I would love to know, how much more wax there is left to burn. But would I keep the sun light out, or the doors and windows closed to keep that flame alive? I don’t think so. Yes I have started to look back and I have come to realize, I love where I am in life. So why would I just want to burn down the wax, if I can shine a little light?
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