Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Pearl of Great Price

Hannah Earles, mother of 10 boys, five of whom had died by today in 1863, sits and waits and wonders with me. She is a great comfort, as are all of the women in my life. 

Christmas is four days away. So is the birth of her 11th child. The Civil War is in full-swing. One of her boys may be consuming her mind and splitting her loyalties between the living and the almost-here. Gifts and decorations, as well as holiday treats are wanting, adding to the stress of carrying a baby to term while managing a household of rambunctious boys. They range in age from 2 to 11-years-old. And it's wintertime! 

Some women are made for little boys. 

Or perhaps living with them molds the woman into someone special. One who learns to live with the energy and vitality with which boys bless a home. Where wrestling for manners, combed hair, and a soft answer become daydreams over the years.

Hannah. I feel for her. She's 39 in 1863, and must be worn out. My 9th child was born when I was 47. But it was summertime and I knew it was a little boy. Every time I think about her I see her rocking, back and forth, and back and forth, listening and waiting for signs of impending change in her body and home.

But that's not the worst of her mind-numbing stresses. Grief would turn her journey through the holidays and childbirth into a dream or a nightmare, depending on how close to the edge she was. Her mother, the closest living female to her, passed away six weeks earlier. She'd helped raise her youngest children, and been her support through the deaths of at least two of them.

 And now she was gone.

So Hannah rocked and rocked and rocked. And as she rocked she'd watch and wonder how to do it all over again like she had with ten others before this one. She'd sing to herself and her little Thomas who was just 2-years old and still in need of his mother's comforting arms. The mood of her home depended on her pulling herself together and selflessly providing some holiday cheer. Because that's what moms do.

And I'm sure that she succeeded. She probably felt like she'd fallen short of her self-imposed expectations. But she'd made it. 

And then, as an unexpected gift, on the day after Christmas, after every one else's needs had been seen to, it was her turn. Providence would shine on her as she walked alone one last time through the valley of the shadow of death, reappearing whole on the other side with another sweet spirit to enjoy.

Only this time, number eleven, she looked into the eyes of her first baby girl, Margaret. 

Margaret. Greek origins.  aka, "Pearl".

Can you imagine the wondering awe?


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