A Lighted Candle

Almost five years ago, a year after my father's death, I wrote this sad recollection....

As noisy as it had been, the house is now peaceful. Friends and relatives who came to commemorate with us my father’s first death anniversary had now left. And as lonely as the stillness that enveloped our home are my father’s memories, which a few hours ago, we joyfully shared.

It has been a year now since my father’s death. He died Saturday, eighth of December last year, the same year I graduated cum laude from college, the year I placed second in LEAE (Licensure Examination for Agricultural Engineering), and the year I became faculty member of MSU-GSC. That year, 2007, ended too badly for us - a fatherless Christmas, and a lonely New Year’s Eve. Though a year had gone by, memories are not easy to get by…

I feel I should have waken my father up that Saturday morning last year. But I simply let him go on with his sleep, his back on me, the arc of his shoulders heaving from labored breathing. Instead, I left home for some errands to do. I was not even able to say goodbye to him.

Later in the afternoon, I received a text message from my sister telling me that they were rushing him to the hospital. So I went home right away but it was already dark when I arrived. Nobody was waiting except my other sister and my nephews and niece; they were tense. The TV was on but mute. The silence and the evening chill cut through my flesh. And when I entered my parent’s room, I felt my body stiffened. The smell of medicine and suffering still hang in the air. There were blood stains on the blanket. I never knew what happened. My sister only told me that he had vomited blood, wrenching in pain. I could not picture the scenario. My head was racing to many possibilities while my heart struggled for hope.

We waited for news, and every minute of waiting was oppressive. Time was running on an infinite space, so slow like a melting candle, its flame so low yet fighting. When seven o’clock came, my phone rang. I opened the message. The candle had died; my father had breathed his last. From deep sorrow, we wept.

Time was suddenly running fast as we held on to the last few days we had with our father, a figure we could not touch anymore but only look at behind the foggy glass of the white coffin, and soon, we would not be even able to see. Flowers stood beside the box. Candles were lighted, their lights flickering as if sharing our loneliness and loss. Endless people came and went to give comfort and sympathy; some were kins, some were friends. Thanks to them, but no words could match the pain I was feeling then. The days were soon over, and into the darkness of the ground we buried our father.

But the days after the burial was worse, as we woke up each morning with no more sound from his favorite radio, as we ate meals with his chair empty, and as we moved on with our lives without him. My times with my father had not been always perfect, but whatever unpleasantness we had,  I could not remember them anymore. I could only remember how he used to lift me on his shoulders when I was small, how he used to teach me to tie my shoelaces, and later on, to use the hammer and saws, how he used to tell jokes, and how he used to be so proud going up the stage to hung my medals. He had been wonderful to us. He had even cried when our eldest left for abroad.

Every month, we visit our father’s grave. Funny why my mother always brings along a stick of cigarrete with our flowers. Sometimes, she tells us stories about our father; some are funny, some are sad. I don’t know what’s inside my mother’s heart. Her longing must be thousand folds than mine for oftentimes, when she lights the candles, tears fall along. I could only pray for my mother’s strength and joy for I am certain that in the pit of her heart, my father remains to be her brightest candlelight.

Like flame which burns down a candle, pain and tragedy test us. The process may be longer, depending on how strong and enduring we are. We shed tears as candle melts max. Just when we thought we have given all we could, that we have been exhausted and fallen, the flame dies down. But we should not die, too. The wax remains. It is up to us to gather the wax and mold it into a new candle. And once again, become  the whole person that we once were.

As for me, everytime I light my candle and place it beside my father’s epitaph, I pray that someday, when I remember him, I could not anymore feel the pain of losing him, and instead, smile and be thankful for the life he gave me.

Image courtesy of Protector Group.


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