Standing barely five feet tall, Jenny wrings out the diaper, snaps it smooth, and spreads it over the line. She turns her face, welcoming the cooling breeze on her brow.
It is a daily ritual, washing the diapers, four on the line and one on the baby.
I must write quickly for the baby will awaken soon. I thought the day would never come when I’d hold our own baby. I’m ever so tired, but immensely happy. I hope there are many more children to come.
Snow was drifted against the door this morning. Thank goodness, Tom and I made a gigantic pile of “meadow muffins,” as the old-timers call the dried cattle dung. We are warm and cozy, even through the storm.
Jenny sings as she hoes the potato plants. Her dress, already turned once and remade, inside to outside, is thin and faded. The children huddle in a nearby row of peas, laughing as they pick and shell and eat.
“Leave enough for supper.” She laughs as they toss the empty pods at each other.
The potatoes turned out scabby and something has eaten the carrots from beneath. We’ll pare away the scabs and make soup. There’s a bit of bacon for flavouring, and even an onion. We’ll eat like kings tonight.
The rain falls, penetrating, numbing. Jenny places a posy of wildflowers on the tiny mound. So small, the earthy scar, yet the wound in her heart is immense, catching her breath.
Two babies flown away now, back to the bosom of God, their fingers never to grasp mine, nor will I look into their wise, newly opened eyes. Instead, they gaze upon the face of God and are held close to His heart.
This is my comfort.
The crop is gone. Tom must take a job in town for the winter while I manage the house and children. Next year will be better, God willing.
Jenny watches a sparrow pecking in the dust, unafraid, inquisitive, finding invisible crumbs and droplets of morning dew.
“God sees the sparrow,” she breathes, enchanted by the sparrow’s drabness and persistence. “And He sees me.”
It’s almost too much to bear. The wretched diphtheria has stolen MaryBeth and Ben, strangling them in its deadly grip. I cannot stand bear to think of them buried in the cold ground. My brown-eyed, laughing MaryBeth and clever, sturdy Ben.
Yet, I am confident they skip merrily around heaven’s throne. Like the crocus pushing its yearning face through the snow toward the sunshine, I find solace in Him.
Jenny’s face is pale as the men bring Tom’s broken body, crushed by a tree, into the farmhouse. She kisses his bloodied cheek and sits with him, holding his hand until the light begins to fade.
Jenny watches the sun set, crimson and gold staining the horizon.
This day shall pass, she whispers.
The funeral was fine, very fitting. Hilda Jensen brought daisies, and their cheery brightness lifted my spirit, but my heart is still broken. How will I live without my beloved Tom, so strong, so handsome, so good?
I must look to the green hills for my strength. And to the skies, for even the harshest storm shows God’s wondrous power, as though flung from His fingers.
Jenny is not surprised when the men and their horse teams crest the rise.
“Hoy there,” they cry. “We’ve come to harvest the crop for you. For Tom.”
Jenny helps the men until her fingers blister and bleed, then feeds her friends stew that had simmered all day. The little ones tug at her skirts, begging for hugs and kisses.
“You’re a tough lady, Mrs. Jenny.” The men remove their hats in tribute to the tiny woman who shows such courage and mettle.
The children want me to move into town.
“It’s too hard for you, Mom, out there alone” they say, but I’m not alone and nothing is too hard for God.
I shall leave, someday, in a pine box.
Tears trickle down the preacher’s cheeks.
“Jenny viewed life as though she were a sparrow; small but determined, content with the smallest or severest portion, believing it from the hand of God. Like the sparrow, she always sang, through scarcity and plenty, pain and peace. May she rest and delight in the grand vistas of heaven.”
The breeze rustles in the cottonwoods, like soft and gentle laughter.
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