Candlelight

By Dr. Patricia L. Bay, Psy.D.
Published in W Magazine, October 2010

I looked across the room and saw him staring at me. I waited for a moment thinking he would say something and finally asked him, "What?" He smiled with his eyes more than his mouth. "You just lit a candle," he said quietly. He did not need to explain what he meant. I could read his meaning in the tone of his voice and the look on his face. I melted.

We were 22-years-old when my husband, Rich, first told me that I lit a candle. He will tell you that he has no idea how he came about that phrase. It rolled off his tongue one day and has stayed a part of his consciousness — the consciousness of our marriage — ever since. It is a gift that he shares very sparingly and with such glorious sincerity that it never fails to warm my heart.

One of the most fascinating things about Rich telling me that I lit a candle is that he often says it when I least expect it. Never has he said it when I am dressed to the nines or in response to the perfect hair or make-up. I do not believe it would occur to him to use it to manipulate me into doing something or as some sort-of seduction. He only says it when he feels deeply moved inside his heart. Almost always, when I ask him why, he will say something like, "I don't know. It was just the way you were sitting there or how you were so intent with what you were doing."

One of the funniest times that I heard that I had lit a candle for Rich was about 20 years ago. I called my answering service to check my business messages and the woman who was reading the message to me said in a hesitant voice, "Your husband called and said, um, you lit a candle?" She had that questioning inflection at the end of her sentence and I started laughing. I briefly explained to her that he was calling to say he loves me. She chuckled and said, "Oh, I thought maybe you were Catholic and he had lit a candle at church for you." Later when I asked him what made him feel that way, Rich said, "I don't know. I was thinking about you and just felt that little light go on in my heart."

I suppose the thing I adore most about Rich telling me when I light a candle for him, is that he is telling me not only that he loves me, but that he likes me. After 34 years together, the flame still burns and the light touches my soul.