How Much Time is Left: A Song of Separation

“How Much Time is Left?” is my attempt at a power pop ballad featuring all the elements of a tearjerker: counting out the minutes before another airport goodbye, one partner playing the waiting martyr, the other playing the prodigal, and plaintive cries of “I don’t want to lose you.”

Behind the Song: Why Departures Aren’t Fun

I met my wife in 1993. I knew her ultimate plan was to join her mom in the USA and build a future there. So when we started out as a couple, the future was unmappable, things felt unstable and temporary. I didn’t know if I was a permanent part of her life, or just another dispensable ingredient in the maelstrom of instability that was our life.

This song was my attempt to bring order into chaos.

See, more than anything else in my life at the time, I knew I wanted to be part of her future. But I wasn’t sure what that future would look like. And so, way before marriage, way before children, there were multiple instances of departure, saying goodbye at airports or boat landings.

She would be off – to teach in another province for a few months, to stay with her mom in California for a few years. And I was left behind, struggling to be secure in the knowledge that we wanted things to work out.

Turmoil Leads to Lyrics

It was in this emotional turmoil that this song came about. I finished lyrics and music on sheet of scratch paper at 2:26 AM on an early June morning in 1994.

I was a year out of college, having just finished a year as a volunteer English teacher in the boondocks, and with no clear vision of tomorrow. I knew I wanted her to be a permanent part of my life… someday. But I could see she wasn’t ready to pick one specific geographic location to build a future in yet.

The only thing I could do was to tell her how I felt. And to wait for her.

Song Evolution

Originally this was a long, meandering acoustic song, boring and overdramatic.

Actually, it may still be a tad dramatic but at least I worked out some snags in the original arrangement that made it drag, and edited down the track to make it 30 seconds shorter than the original mix.



by Lionel Zivan Valdellon
Composed: June 28, 1994 Tuesday 2:26 AM

How much time is left before you go?
Is there a way for us to ever know?
How long can you stay this time?
All these questions rippling through my mind.
I don’t know.

I think of the days that lie ahead
And realize the truth in what you said:
“If you want to wait this time around,
Then sanctify yourself on holy ground.”
Holy ground.

When you finally want to,
I’ll be here just waiting for that day
When you return to me.

I don’t want to lose you.
So I wait until the time
when your wings can take you home to me.
I don’t want to lose you.

Will there ever be a day when
You realize you’re flying off again?
On that day, will you come back down,
Content with living life here on the ground?
I hope so.

How much time is left before you go?
Tell me can we ever take it slow?
Are you waiting for some sign,
A warning that you’re crossing every line, every time?


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