She hunched over a snowy white piece of cotton and lace. On the table beside her, a candle flickered, its flame sputtering low in a pool of tallow. Her eyes burned from the hours spent over her sewing.
From a corner of the room came the rustling sound of bed covers being pushed back and her husband dressing.
She frowned before drawing the needle in and out of the fabric again. It can’t be dawn already. I have so much left to do.
She glanced around her, only now noticing the light that had seeped in through the curtained window, touching the objects in the room with stony grayness.
“Lydia?” Her husband gently placed a calloused hand on her shoulder. “Please tell me you didn’t spend all night on the wee lassie’s gown.”
Allowing the needle to fall to her lap, she reached to touch his hand. “‘Tis a labor of love, Seth. I had to.”
She strained to look up into his eyes. “I had to,” she emphasized. His eyes softened at her words.
“Aye,” he mumbled, caressing her cheek before shambling to the door. “They will be here soon. Will ye be ready?”
“Aye,” she whispered in reassurance. He paused for a few seconds, watching as she bent over her sewing. He shook his head and let the door close after him.
They will be here soon. I must be ready. The words echoed in her head.
Her fingers picked up the needle again and drew it through the cloth, attaching the lace to the hem. She had labored all winter, crocheting the delicate flowered pattern of the lace, envisioning the gown she would construct. As the new life kicked inside her, she cut cloth and began to stitch this tiny dress. Seth busied himself building a cradle. Every minute of work was accompanied by prayer and praise to their Lord and Savior. The baby, a girl she hoped, would be dedicated to the Lord one Sunday in this dress.
Two nights ago the waiting came to an end. The labor began much earlier than expected and with such ferocity Seth had no time to seek out the midwife. In the midnight hours she delivered with only her husband to attend to her needs. She guided his worried movements with her fevered breaths and when at last it was over, she rested. He bathed the tiny girl and then he, too, slept.
As soon as she mustered the strength, she asked Seth to help her to her rocking chair. At first, he resisted but she hushed his protests.
“Seth, the Lord is our strength and salvation. Our hearts must trust and rejoice in Him. I will finish what I started.” Trembling, she picked up the unfinished gown. Her hands became steady as she smocked the bodice and hemmed the sleeves and collar.
A labor of love? Aye, it was.
She sewed the last frothy bit of lace to the hem and picked up a tiny pearl button from the table top. At the general store, she had bartered fresh eggs for those buttons. A costly decoration, she thought at the time.
As she drew the needle through the shank of the button at the neckline, she pricked her finger. A crimson dot bloomed at her fingertip where the needle pierced. She set her needlework on the table and stood on wobbly legs. Sticking her finger in her mouth, she hobbled to the window and peered out.
The apple tree in the field was abounding with blossoms. They would have a good harvest this autumn. Under the outstretched limbs of the tree, Seth leaned on a shovel, talking with a neighbor. They both glanced toward the sod house and Lydia withdrew from the window.
Her finger was not bleeding anymore. Mindful of the time, she picked up the tiny gown and finished sewing on the button.
The sound of a wagon and horses drew her attention. She glanced toward the small pine box where their wee daughter slept.
Sleeping now, but we will see you again in Heaven. The Lord promised.
The door opened.
“Lydia? Are ye ready? The preacher’s here,” Seth said, his grief-filled eyes alighting upon her finished work.
She nodded, tears washing her cheeks, and together they dressed their firstborn for her burial.
Dedicated with love and hope to those parents whose arms ache for the little one that never drew breath. We will embrace them in Heaven.
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