A mother’s sacrifice

Part of the message at church this morning flicked on a light switch for me. It was on the topic of “Tabernacle,” not exactly a typical Mothers’ Day focus. But one of the passages was from Exodus 26, “Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn…”

Immediately, a poem came to mind, one I wrote years ago, about Hannah and the sewing she did for Samuel, the son she prayed for and then gave away. (You can read about this amazing mother in I Samuel 1 and 2.) The part about the fine twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn used for the curtains reminded me that I had used similar words to describe the robe Hannah made for Samuel every year. The Bible doesn’t say what color it was, but in my mind, I saw her using these royal colors.

This story fascinates me because I cannot fathom the sacrifice she made when she gave up her son to Eli the priest when he was only a toddler (my Bible’s footnote says it was customary to nurse children for three years or longer and she gave him away right after he was weaned.)

When I wrote this poem, I was trying to imagine what it would be like to “raise and release” a child before he turned five. It’s hard enough to release your children when they’re adults! This telling detail kept coming back to me, “Moreover his mother made him a little coat (some translations say “robe”), and brought it to him from year to year…” (I Sam. 2:19)

So in honor of all mothers, whether you’re still raising or in the process of releasing (it’s an ongoing struggle for me), here is a look at Hannah’s promise.

A Promise Kept

This fine-twined linen of
gold, blue, purple, scarlet,
simply sewn, skillfully embroidered –
a perfect garment for my child-priest.

I fold it carefully,
one sleeve over the bodice,
then the other directly on top.

If only I could watch him, day after day,
watch as these sleeves shrink
and the hem shortens,
follow the flow of this garment
as he rushes to his duties,
see him obey with youthful energy,
pleasure, pride.

Instead,
his visage is etched on my mind.
And imagination must conjure up
his features’ subtle changes.

Over the long trek to and from the temple, I continue to wonder,
Will he realize
this perfect linen,
hues of gold and blue and purple and scarlet
is my tear-stained watercolor,
a rainbow stitched with trembling hands.

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