SHE TAUGHT THEM holy matters as well. Her wood church was long as it was broad. It had a thatch on it and daubed with the gaudy doings of saints inside. It had a hewn stone for an altar and seven fine lamps on it lit day and night and a cross worked with faces and leaves twined together. Ita's voice when she sang was like a sheep caught under a gate nor could she keep a tune to save her soul from the fire but she had her little ones chirping mass to and fro so sweet as to wring tears from a limpet. All scrubbed up they was too in their snowy gowns like angels.
"May the shadow of Christ fall on thee. May the garment of Christ cover thee. May the breath of Christ breathe in thee," she told them each morning at sun-up. Winters they'd sit there with blue noses and frozen fingers and the way their breath come out of them in white puffs you could almost believe it was Christ's indeed.
True faith. A simple life. A helping hand. She said those was the three things prized most in Heaven. On earth it was a fair wife, a stout ox, a swift hound.
Beg not, refuse not, she said. One step forward each day was the way to the Land of the Blessed. Don't eat till your stomach cries out. Don't sleep till you can't stay awake. Don't open your mouth till it's the truth opens it.
-Originally published in Brendan