Estrella hurried into the church as she always did on Wednesday evenings.  The priest, Father Brendan, and one of his altar boys were tidying up in the sanctuary.  He greeted her warmly, as he did whenever they met.

"Back again?" he asked.

"Of course, Father," said the young woman.  "It's Wednesday, and I must light a candle for my grandfather."

"Of course, child," said the priest.  "I'm sure you know what to do. I verily believe you know this church even better than I do by now."  She smiled and hurried toward the side altar. "Estrella," the priest called, interrupting her mid-step.

She turned to face him.  "Yes, Father?"

He smiled handsomely at her.  "Far be it from me to discourage a young person from practicing their faith, but..."  He paused, clearly trying to be as delicate as possible. "Well, it's been five years since your grandfather passed away.  That's five years of Wednesdays you've spent here, lighting candles for him, in addition to your weekly church attendance on Sunday."

"Yes," said Estrella.  Her eyes narrowed as she tried to grasp his meaning.

"Well," Father Brendan continued, "I just hope you're not... too focused... on his passing.  I wouldn't want it to be so front and center in your mind that you miss everything else that God is calling you to do."

Estrella cast her eyes down and pursed her lips.  "With all due respect, Father, I don't think you understand.  My grandfather was my world. He practically raised me. He sacrificed everything just to keep a roof over mine and my mother's heads.  I watched him work tirelessly, right up until he died, all for the good of others. I would feel very selfish if I didn't do something even now to show my gratitude."

The priest gazed compassionately on her.  "He rests in Heaven, child. You know that."

"Yes," she said, "of course I do.  But even as he rests, I want him to know how much I appreciate what he's done."  She paused and inhaled sharply. "And that I miss him." Her voice quivered with emotion as she fought back a tear.

Father Brendan nodded.  "Forgive me, dear," he said.  "Perhaps, I should not have said anything."  He called to the altar boy and they exited together, leaving Estrella alone in the sanctuary.

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She approached the side altar where a row of candles had been set out for people like her to pay tribute to their lost loved ones.  A quiver full of matches sat off to one side, and Estrella took one and lit it. Gingerly, she transferred the flame to the wick of a fresh candle and knelt before it.  Her prayers began as they always did, with the "Our Father," before switching to her usual pleas.

"Almighty God," she said, "please grant my Papa a peaceful rest by your side for all eternity.  I've never met anyone more deserving."

A strange chill filled the air all of a sudden.  The sanctuary of the old church was large and drafty to be sure, but Estrella had been there often enough to know that this was unusual.  Even so, it did nothing to prepare her for what came next.

She felt the heat and moisture of a pair of lips right up against her right ear.  There came a whisper, clear as day. It was a voice she recognized. "Turn out the light," her grandfather said.  "Let me sleep!"

Estrella jumped up and whirled around.  There was nothing. She was alone in the sanctuary, just as she had thought.  At that moment, the sound of a single, sudden breath came from behind her. She turned to see a ribbon of smoke floating upward from the flameless candle wick.

Estrella remained a faithful parishioner, coming to church every Sunday, but this was the last of her Wednesday night candle lightings.



Written by Jdeschene
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