I want to be alone

A man, who lost his wife to cancer, found himself wanting to be alone. In time he dropped out of his worshipping community and curtailed all of the activities he and his wife had shared for so many years. He increasingly kept to himself. He quit socializing at work and returned straight home to an empty house. He turned down invitations from friends and co-workers. His leisure time was now spent watching television or working in his shop in the basement.

His contact with people dwindled until friends became alarmed that he might live out his life as a recluse. One came by to visit and to invite him over for supper the next evening. The two old friends sat in comfortable chairs by a warm fireplace. The visitor extended the invitation and encouraged him to allow others to share his pain. The man responded that he figured that he was better off without being around other people, who seemed to remind him of all he had lost. And besides, it was just too difficult to get out anymore.

They sat in silence for a while, watching the wood burn in the fireplace. Then the visitor did an unusual thing. He took the tongs from the rack, reached into the fire, pulled out a flaming ember and laid it down by itself on the hearth. He still said nothing. Both men silently watched the red-hot ember lose its glow and turn slowly into a crusty, black lump. After some moments, the man turned to his companion and said, “I get the message, my friend. I’ll be over tomorrow evening.”

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