If things had gone as Hannah, his mother, had hoped, there would have been a big family gathered around the table, working together on the hof with the Kindred, worshipping together on the Lord’s Day, eating and laughing and listening to stories by lamplight together in the evenings. But it hadn’t been that way. Eb, her firstborn, thrived, but there had been something wrong. She had seven more babies, but one after another, every time, they died. Now, she had heard, folks can fix the problem, they can do something about it: but when Hannah was mourning her children, laying them one by one in the earth under the oak trees up on the hill, it was a mystery.

So there was only Sam, her husband, and Eb. And Sam was killed in a fire, trying to save the calves out of somebody’s barn. It wasn’t the smoke, or the flames, but a beam that came crashing down.

So then that just left Hannah and Eb. Only the two of them. Hannah refused to be possessive; she would not be afraid and she would not cling, because she did not see either of those things in the life of Jesus. She saw only peace and trust and courage; and her feet followed where her eyes looked.

Hannah had learned to live with grief as a candle that burns always and forever in the heart’s holy of holies. Surgeons, she knew, in the world of human beings, could cut an ailing heart out of a sick man’s body and give him another human heart – a pig’s heart even. Surgeons could stitch on tubes of flesh and insert tubes of plastic, when a heart went wrong. But for all that surgery and sophisticated expertise, no-one had never seen the holy of holies at the heart of a heart; even though surely, that is what a heart is for. But Hannah knew that hidden sanctuary was there. She knew because of this candle that burned always upon the altar in the depths of her. A light inside you is beautiful; it shines kindly through your eyes; but it hurts too – and the kindness you can never see for yourself, but you certainly feel the pain.

She had learned in those terrible days of her children dying, when she had thought she might go out of her mind with grief, that the remedy is in stillness. She had learned to possess herself in stillness, to stay only in the present moment, think only of what lay before her. So she would look at the fleece twisting into yarn as she spun it; at the steam rising from the pot as she stirred it; at the sunlight slanting through the window onto the scrubbed wood of the tabletop; at the cut vegetables on the board before her; at the beauty of feathers as she plucked a bird to roast, at the new loaf that she drew from the oven. She kept her mind right there, determinedly focused on the beautiful ordinary; and somehow, she got through.