The pulse of our souls eventually slowed. Our listening to what might be lurking outside the church walls returned to what might be living within them. "Do you think they've gone, Grandfather?" He nodded, "He thought so." But the tentative manner of that nod told me that we would rest here awhile.
"It is warm in here," the realization of that came remarkably late. 'It should be cold in here, Granddad."
"Yes, it is, grandson, it always is."
"You have been here before?"
"Many times. Every time I have ventured across that frozen river. i come here to listen to the Old Man pray.'
"The Old One is here," I asked while returning my eyes to the hiss of my lantern.
'"He is the One melting the wax of the candles."
"Well, the light and the warmth. Young one, have you ever considered a candle's life?" He motioned me to my feet; we left our lanterns behind and made our way to the two tapers by the pulpit.
We watched ever closer and closer the candles at work. Then in whispers, my grandfather went on. "The candle begins as wax and wick. Then something comes and sets it on fire, both bringing it to life and threatening its demise. Once the candle comes to life it burns towards towards it end. As the wick burns, it becomes smoke rising heavenward, traveling with the light nd warmth of its mutual creation with the flame. But the wax it melts, yielding to the fire, allowing tiself to flow, to fade, to form once more in unintended shape, a sculpture created out of fire and time, something beautiful with a beauty different than before. When the candle has finished its life, the smoke and the wax then live on in forever. Young one, our lives are like candles and our souls are like wax."
I repeated it over first in voice and then in thought, "Our lives are like candles and our souls are like wax"
We returned to our pews and we sat for awhile. My grandfather closed his eyes, I sensed he prayed. I only watched him pray; and I watched him breathe, as the aging candles began to melt away.
Slowly the light of the lanterns took over; the Church faded dark, the Church faded cold. We waited some more as the stained windows began to glow with the moonglow from the outside no more powerful than the darkness within.
Then we must have both heard the lanterns say, "We must go," for together we readied ourselves to re-enter the cold.
As we neared the doors, I took one last breath of the candle -smoked church ... it had the scent of holy. I lingered in the peace for one moment more. And as I lingered my grandfather waited and waited and waited before unlatching the door.
It was winter again; it was wintry cold again; it was colder than ever before. And the moonlight had grown stronger and the soft snow had begun to fall ... slow, floating, airy snowflakes, like puffs of lace.