Snowflakes fell silently gathering on her hair and dark lashes. Ella shielded her blue eyes from the brilliance of the rutted, snow packed trail. Her rag -wrapped palms gripped the handcart handle once more; frostbitten, broken and bleeding she clung to it with a will only second to that of her beloved husband Sven. He had pulled her and their baby through many miles but now lay still in the cart behind her with her son tucked beneath his blankets. His courage spent. Body exhausted. Plagued with fever he slept on keeping her son from deaths doorstep.
Fear gouged Ella’s chest as she tried unsuccessfully to shove the worry down deep. She had to move that cart to the top of that mountain or Sven and her son would perish.
The wind swept through the pine trees—its whine stirred memories as she placed one tiny foot ahead of the other. Father had once told her that those same delicate feet would grace the ballroom at the finest parties. But now the saints were driven out. She knew it was a dream. Ella shook herself knowing it was the cold that was taking hold of her mind. As she pressed forward with a will to move it-- the cart inched forward. Her feet were covered in sturdy boots now, but the warmth had left them; they lacked the feeling to move another inch.
She prayed aloud, “Dear Father in heaven, please give me strength to do the unthinkable. Please dear Father I call upon your angels to move this cart up this hill. Use me as an instrument of Thy will. I beg for you to spare my dear Sven and our son, in Jesus name, Amen.”
Ella pulled the cart with fresh courage. Her breath hung in the air with each groan. Then suddenly her surroundings seemed to slow. The brother in front of her seemed to move his cart forward with vigor that hadn’t been there for miles. They were not alone.
Peace fell across her countenance as warmth calmed her mothers’ heart. She knew that they were all being helped along the path up the mountain. Her yoke seemed easy; her feet suddenly sure. A smile crossed the blue of her frozen lips. Ella heard her baby wail in that breath of time.
All will be well my child. ]The spirit whispered as she’d pulled that three hundred pound cart and her family, to the crest of the hill. Ella closed her eyes. She thought, “Jesus saved me and now He has saved us again.” Time slowed as soft snow met Ella’s open arms as she fell-- blanketing her in a snowy grave just as help crested the hill from the Wasatch Valley below.
“Sven? You’re finally awake!” A large man hovered over his patient and swept a tear from his own cheek
“El-la…Ella! My wife?” Sven tried to sit up, but failed. “I must help her,” he wheezed through broken lips.
Dear Brother, she has departed from us to a better place.” The man speaking looked like a twin to Sven.
“No!” Sven’s large mitts grabbed his brother’s shirt-- dragging him close enough to feel the breath on his skin. “It cannot be! Please tell me this is still my nightmare!”
Peter grabbed his brother’s hand from his shirt and lifted his brother into his large embrace.
“You loved her well dear brother. She gave her last breath for you and your son. When our party arrived, we watched with our own eyes as she dragged that cart those last few feet before we could reach her.
“Dear brother,” he choked back a shudder as he sobbed the last words, “She died with such a look of joy in her countenance that we could only suppose that she had the help of angels and knew it well. There is no earthly way she could have pulled you and your son up that mountain. Please take this gift and know that God has smiled upon you in your coldest, darkest hour. You are alive my brother!”
Sven could hear a child wail in the next room. He knew in his mind that his brother’s words were true; though the tears kept coming. Peace settled in his heart as he watched his sister in-law walk into the room with Hans in her arms.
Calm reached his soul with the knowledge that Ella would be with him again once again in heaven. All would be well in time.
*Dedicated to those faithful pioneers who treked by handcart to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah.
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