The last of the wash was in the bin and Hannah hurried over to the twine stretched between the old trees. As she shook out the little white diapers and Henry’s large work shirts her mind twisted and stretched its usual course, trying to find its way out her tortured maze.
She should take little Lovely to the doctor no matter how much money it costed. Henry would curse her and be angry. He would. Would he beat her? She would take it. Wasn’t it worth it to have her child? Lovely grew weaker daily though she couldn’t tell why. All the old remedies and plants had no effect on the little child. Only six months old. She should be making little babbling noises and rolling about on the floor with her toys these days, but she did nothing except her pitiful crying that made Hannah’a heart die as they increased in sounds of pain and baby’s body grew thinner. She’d heard the sounds before--three other times. The last time her little boy had made it to only four months.
Hannah wanted to pray, to reach out and ask God for help, but she felt worthless. She was weak. If she had stood up to Henry her babies would be alive. A better mother would have swallowed her fear and taken her babies to get help. But she hadn't. Now Lovely was dying and she had still done nothing. Hannah shook her head as she hung the next shirt out and pertly clipped it to the twine. Her heart was only full of anger when she thought of each baby she had carried in her belly, full of hope for their future and then had to watch them be buried away in their silent graves. Her eyes shifted to the three little crosses. That was her fault. She had no right to ask God for anything. Perhaps he had cursed her babies as well for her laziness and fear.
The wind gusted up and the laundry floated upwards and brushed Hannah’s cheeks. She hadn’t noticed her own tears until that moment but the wet clothes seemed to lift and gently wipe them away. It was at that moment that a bird lifted its voice, sweetly and swiftly in the air. It drew her eyes to the cabin, her whole being listening for another, more desperate cry.
Hannah’s scream caught in her throat. A winged creature, massive and brilliant like the white of the sun was landing on the rafters. As she stared at him she was thrown into an expanse of beauty that no mortal meets without bowing to a great Truth. An angel.
An angel. It was there for only a moment or so, though the world stopped around it and the birds grew quiet and the wind stilled. Then he lifted his great wings and in a silent flight left again.
In his wake Hannah knew. Her throat choked with a sob and she dropped the rest of the sodden clothes to be soiled on the ground, sprinting to the cabin. The air that greeted her as she opened the door was quiet. She was at Lovely’s cradle in moments and took up the lifeless little body into her arms.
It was the same scene--she, standing by the cradle, holding a dead child still warm from a life that had been unfairly shortened. Each time before the sobs that wracked her had gripped her in the pain of grief so completely she hadn’t been able to breathe and she had endured it alone. But this time the tears fell gently. Hannah brushed a sun-worn cheek against Lovely’s delicate skin and her sad heart was struck with wonder. Peace filled her and tempered the sadness. Had God heard her tormented thoughts? Her little Lovely had been so tiny, so unknown to the world, a child known only by her yet when her health waned God sent a mighty angel to come gather Lovely’s soul.
She pressed the little body close to her and for the first time in a very long time, Hannah let herself be held in God’s presence. And she prayed.