The fence line beside us led us to wrought iron gates, tall, spiked and scrolled, swung half open in a manner of a ghostly door man gesturing, "Please enter."
And we did, Grandfather and me and the lanterns we carried with us.
St. Anselm's Cemetery appeared to be a perfect square of hallowed ground, though the far fence was no more than a darker shade of darkness than the darkness beyond. The snow blanket was thinner in this place, covering the grass but leaving the the small, grey and gothic tombstones to stand uncovered, lined up like Greyfryars all in their rows.
"Why are we stopping here," I begged the old man.
He did not answer, he only lifted his lantern near to my ear and the fire in the lantern, it whispered, "To walk in the midst of immortality."
One by one we paid our respects; here and there, we read the grey shadowed words in the grey granite stones. All of them were etched with only one name, a name ordained upon them in holy rite. Below the name a singular date. But why one only one month, one day, one year.
"Why is there but one date on these stones?" I asked.
"Because with these brothers lost in eternity, death and birth are mingled together. Life is a series of births and deaths, many births, many deaths, amongst the others. The Lost Ones have more deaths than births; the Living Ones, more births than deaths."
As we passed the Greyfriars, one by one, the eternity grew more and more in my young soul. Even the moonlight upon the snow seemed to grow older and older, the very air we breathed felt as if it were from a more ancient time. How long it took to stroll the rows was lost in the stillness of time, but we passed them all as if it were our duty. In the distance, we heard the weeping of owls.
As we passed once more under Saint Anselm's wrought iron name, my grandfather whispered to me, "Did you hear the footsteps, young one?"
"Yes, the footsteps of those who have brought us here, echoing through the hallways of immortality."
Though I did not know how to answer, I knew I had answered within. I had.
In a rather intentional way, he lifted his lantern as he gestured for me to lift mine. Then face to face with an almost blazing bonfire of brightness, in a most intimate way, he wanted to etch on my spirit the few words spoken in priestly tones, "Our lives are created out of moments remembered and moments forgotten. Choose wisely which moments you choose to keep and those you cast away."
And as we moved on, in the distance, we could hear the owls grow silent as if the abbey bells had chimed an unheard toll calling them from their perches to midnight prayers.