I stood in the cool mist of the morning and watched the Sun slowly rise to the East. Thin ribbons of golden light broke through the line of trees at the eastern edge of the grotto, until eventually the Sun was high enough in the morning sky to wash the entire open field in its light.
The three alabaster statues, each in a special location surrounding the Tree, lit up like beacons when the morning light hit them. I walked to each in turn, touching each cheek fondly. Grandfather was right, simple headstones wouldn't have honored them as much as these three monuments. I looked down at the base of the monument where I stood, it said simply,
Kes — Guardian, Hero, Friend.
Whoever had been found to do the sculptures was a genius, the pure white alabaster image was a perfect representation of the ancient Choctowineh. Aya and Beloth's monuments were equally as remarkable.
We had been so saddened when we realized, within a few months of their return, that our ancient kinsmen were dying. Beloth explained it best
"We have been dying, children, for longer than recorded history. Thanks to you, we are able to come home, to feel the Earth beneath our feet once more, to stand under the blue sky one more time and bask in the golden light of the Sun one more time before we are gone."
Even though it was long overdue and welcomed by all three of them, they held on for three more months after it became known. Part of every day during that three months they spent with me.
"You have learned of the light, and you have touched it, but you have not lived within the Light as we, your kinsmen and our peoples did. We have things we must show you, and things you must see before we are gone and there are none left who can."
And for three months, each morning within the cool mists of the grotto, I would sit with my kinsmen and think and feel and learn, until I could wrap myself in Light, and it was as much a part of me as a drawn breath or a heartbeat.
On the eve of their passing, Aya had me sit beside her where she lay watching the sun setting out on the bay.
"We have been, Kes, Beloth and I, Guardians and Teachers. We will be gone before the morning light reaches these waters again and then it will be you who must be Guardian and Teacher. To the Guardian I leave words you already know from a great man of your time.
"A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'universe, ' limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons close to us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from our prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all humanity and the whole of nature in its beauty."
"That was Albert Einstein." I said, recognizing the quote.
"Let the Guardian you are to be heed those words. Widen the circle of your compassion to include all, and extend your care and concern to all of nature and the universe without favor."
Aya squeezed my hand with surprising strength considering how little energy I knew they had left.
"These words I leave for the Teacher."
"If you want to build a ship
don't herd people together to collect wood
and don't assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for the
endless immensity of the sea."
"That was Antoine-Marie-Roger de Saint-Exupery" I said. I loved saying that guy's name, it always made me laugh to say it out loud. He was a French Pilot and Poet from the 1920's who wrote 'The Little Prince'. Reading his biography was one of those 'extra credit' assignments Captain Bob had given me while I was studying for my private pilot's license.
"For the Teacher that you must become, remember that to Teach is to Guide, you must make opportunities for your people to learn, you cannot learn for them."
"Thank you Aya, you have been as good a guide and teacher as you have been a Guardian, and I promise to keep you and your wisdom close."
When I went to Beloth's side, I took his hand as I sat beside him, and bent to kiss his brow. He whispered in my ear as I did.
"Always remember. Love is the purest feeling, the wisest thought and the strongest reason. Always!"
"Thank you Beloth. I love you!" I kissed his cheek and then his brow again as I left him.
When I got to Kes, quiet, shy Kes, he was weeping and smiling all at the same time.
"You are ready." He said.
These were the last words spoken aloud by the Ancient Guardians. Within hours they were gone.