It's St. Patrick's Day as I write this, a Catholic holiday to be sure.
The Puritans loathed the Catholic ways and teachings, and my ancestors of the Puritan persuasion would be hard pressed to agree with my celebrations of a calendar day being designated for a Catholic Saint.
Yet I have to wonder at how both Puritan Hannah Dustin and Catholic Patrick were kidnapped by "heathens", and how after Patrick fled his captors, he then returned again to them to share his faith in the one true God.
How did Puritan Hannah view her "heathen" captors?
And what affect did the trials and hardships of her captivity have upon her personal faith?
By the Gregorian calendar, March 17th fell on a Sunday.
Back in Haverhill, the citizens would surely have gathered for worship. Their minister was Mr. Benjamin Rolf. Most likely the dead had been already buried in the typical Puritan manner; laid in a grave yard set apart from the church, utilizing the poorest of land.
The bodies would have been buried with their feet to the east and their heads to the west, to allow the dead to arise one day facing to the east, looking towards the rising sun.
Baby Hannah's body would likely have been discovered fairly quickly; the apple tree upon which her head was struck was on the edge of the Dustin property. That gruesome discovery undoubtedly would have verified to Thomas that Hannah and Mary were not just hiding from the Indians somewhere, but rather that they had been taken captive in a cruel heartless manner.
Saturday must have been difficult. Beyond the grim duty of burying Martha next to her dead older sister and two brothers, there was also the need to recover what could be salvaged from the burned Dustin home. With several families now homeless, the community would have had to share whatever they could to feed, clothe and house the broken families as best they could.
Thomas quickly returned to work on the new house. It, along with several other homes, was now being designated as a garrison house. Soldiers were placed to guard over his work at the clay pit, and by April 5th, there were orders given establishing the new house formally as a garrison.
Somehow, in two weeks, Thomas managed to complete his dream home in order to shield his neighbors from nightmarish danger.
Thomas was appointed Master of the Garrison, and he assigned six men to serve as guards, including Mr. Thomas Kingsbury, he who had lost his children during the March 15th raid.
I confess I hurt thinking about what it meant to Thomas to have had to been working on that home as he grieved.
To work on a house he could no longer furnish. A house that for now he would not share with his wife.
The Puritan marriage was a place of great passion. The pleasures of marriage were viewed as a means to experience passion as they should experience passion toward God.
It was the Puritans who first offered the summation of the duty of man:
To know God and enjoy Him forever.
That passion for enjoying God, and their marriages was reflected in their writings.
Puritans who loss their spouses were often inconsolable. Their love for the spouses and their love towards God was deeply intertwined.
It also hurts to imagine what it must have felt to Thomas to have had to bury yet another child.
It had only been five months since his 15 year old Mary had died!
It hurts when I imagine the shock of finding Martha dead, the shock of seeing all worldly belongings in flames, and not knowing the fate of his beloved wife.
I am sure on that Sunday, Thomas and the children were at church.
I am sure that there was a sermon given, likely exploring the reasons why life was short and death was nigh for all.
There would have been prayers prayed seeking God's strength and care for the mourning.
And I am sure there were prayers, both corporate and private, entreating God's watchful care over Hannah and the other now unaccountably missing from their midst.
As they prayed did Thomas yearn to gallop off looking for Hannah?
Did Hannah's brothers, John, Samuel and Jonathan talk of tracking the Indians, or going out looking until they could find their sister and bring her home safe?
Or did the Puritan teachings of predestination override their urge to short circuit her destiny which even then was unfolding?
While they prayed, did Hannah's four living sisters long to reach over to comfort their sister's children seated in the service beside them?
I imagine they did. I imagine families back then were little different than families today when it comes to caring for one another's children in times of crisis.
Interesting, the Puritans often reflected on death in their sermons. They did not enjoy a reassurance that upon death their souls would fly to heaven, rather, because they believed in pre-destination they felt that only an elect few would attain heaven.
They reflected on their short comings, and yearned to know God "in their hearts" more than simply in their minds.
Death stalked them. Burial was a simple affair, a rejection of the Catholic ceremonies. Graves were marked with symbols of death, such as skulls, a warning to any who would see the grave that death had come and would come for the viewer one day as well.
The body was merely resting there until the Resurrection. The grave in fact had stones at the head and the feet, and often rails connecting those stones, creating to the viewer an image of a bed.
As I write this I am exhausted by the consideration of all that day must have meant to Thomas, and the Haverhill community. I find myself like those who have had a crisis explode in their life.
My thoughts are jumbled.
There's so many facets to consider. So many things I will never know or fully understand on this earth.
But I do know one thing for sure.
Thomas and his community were at prayer.
And Hannah was praying as well.