In the Night

We waved good-bye.  My friends got on the bus that would take them back to San Salvador, back to the airport, back home to the US.  I was staying.  Sometimes I do this - stay in our sister church community for a while on my own.  Well, I am never really on my own...though at night, it sometimes feels that way.

After dinner, Julia and I sat and talked.  The hour grew late, and her husband had not come home. Recent elections had resulted in a change in the political party which controlled the local municipality, and as a worker affiliated with the losing party, he had lost his job.  After passing six long months with no work and selling off family belongings in order to get money for food, he was finally hired as a delivery truck driver.  This work took him far from home, delivering insulated roofing materials to construction sites.  When far from home after dark, it was safer to find shelter with a friend or to sleep in the truck rather than try to make his way home.  After dark, gangs ruled the roads near the community.

It was time for bed.  We climbed into our beds, Julia in the double and me in the top bunk.  We chatted for a little while.  We couldn't sleep.  Julia got up to light a candle.  "Do you recognize this?" she asked.  "Your husband gave it to me.  When I am home alone and I can't sleep, I light a candle to keep the evil spirits away."

The original candle had long since been melted away.  Julia had filled the tin with new wax.  She struck a match and held it to the inner side of the tin's cover.  "I can still smell the original scent.  Vanilla,"  she said, savoring that last word and taking a big sniff of the interior of the warm cover.  Then she lit the candle wick and placed the tin in the middle of the floor.

She showed me the cover design - una familia de osos - a family of bears.  She was the mama, her husband the papa.  "When I smell the vanilla I think of your husband.  He is like the big bear protecting the house when there is no man at home."

We climbed back into our beds.  Julia was telling a funny story.  I was laughing when suddenly she cried out, "Help me!  Help me!"  It took me a moment to realize that this was not part of the story.   I leaped out of bed and by the light of the candle could see that Julia was sleeping and having a night terror.  I gently called her name and stroked her hand.  At that moment a tree branch fell onto the roof and she startled awake.  Poor Julia was so apologetic.  I suppose I looked a bit frightened. I realized that if it had been a real emergency, I had no way to call for help other than to go outside and try to find a neighbor.  Tomorrow, I thought, I would make sure I knew where Julia kept all of her keys.

Adela and Julia
We settled ourselves back into our beds.  We focused on the candle.  "God, protect us from the evil spirits," Julia prayed.  She fell asleep and was breathing calmly.  I thought about Julia's mother, Adela.  Julia had cared for her mom for many years, following a stroke which had left Adela unable to walk.  Adela had recently passed away.   She too would cry out in the night, "Julia, Juuuuuuuuuuulia," and Julia would get up to comfort her.  Now Julia was often alone in the night.  Well, not really alone.  She has her candle, and sometimes her friends who come from far away, and always, the comfort of knowing that her friends and her God love her very much.


  1. Great blog, Linda, but did Julia's husband return home safely?? Inquiring minds want to know. ;-)


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