Caroline felt a wrenching in her heart as she climbed onto the wagon seat. Her tiny son was asleep in his cradle right behind her, where she could reach him easily. But, oh how her heart did ache.
Yes the decision to go on was right. Yes, she had prayed long and hard about it. Yes, she had even asked the Lord to remove this bitter cup from her, but the answer was still the same.
Why couldn't she be like the other women of the pioneer company? Why did she have to bear this great burden alone? Why did she have to leave now. Just a while longer and perhaps Charles would have joined the Church too.
Oh Charles, she thought as she remembered his handsome features and kind, gentle laugh. How she loved him. Why did he have to be so stubborn? Why couldn't he have joined the Church, then she wouldn't have to go through all this. She wouldn't have had to choose between her beloved husband and Zion.
It was difficult to leave Charles, but that had been a fairly easy choice to make. Almost as easy as the choice to of leaving Michigan where the happiest years of her young life had been spent. She had always known that this was just a temporary stop along the way to Zion, but still, Charles was so vibrant, so energetic, so kind and so easy to love.
"How can you ask this of me", she silently berated the Lord. "How can I possibly go through this. How could any mother do this", she thought.
Her mind wandered back over the past few weeks. Doubts and remembered words flooded her memories. In her husband's rich French-Canadian accent, she heard him asking, pleading again. "Oh Caroline, how could a good wife and mother like you do this?" he had asked. "You say you love me, but just because I will not blaspheme myself by joining your strange Church, you leave me, and not only me but your own tiny daughter. Oh Caroline don't we mean more than that to you".
"Yes", she thought to herself, "how could I do this? Here I am, taking my infant son to who knows where and leaving my wonderful husband and beautiful daughter. I'll probably never see them again. My son will never know his father, perhaps will never know any father. And for what? My brothers don't care. They have already warned me that if I need help, I am not to ask them and my father is dead and my mother is too old and has too many other problems to worry about me."
"My mother-in-law will take good care of Mary, but that won't be the same as if I took care of her. Oh if only my dear husband had joined the Church, or if only the Lord hadn't told me so unmistakably that I ought to go to Utah."
Her mind flashed back to that day several months ago. Her mother had come to tell her that they had nearly enough money saved to finance the rest of the trip to Utah. They offered to take her and Charles and the two children if they would go. "No, my place is beside my husband", she had confidently answered them. "Besides, there may be a branch of the Church started near here soon, then I won't need to go to Zion."
That night as she prayed, she felt disturbed. She had stayed on her knees even longer than usual, but couldn't really pin down the reason for her unease.
The next day, as she washed the clothes, the uneasiness was still there. Then the thought, entirely unbidden, had struck her. She had to go to Utah with her family. She tried to put it out of her mind. It wasn't practical, it wasn't at all even what she wanted.
After several hours of a losing mental struggle, she retired to her room and knelt again. She fervently prayed for guidance and then suddenly found herself asking if she should really go on to Utah. Like a gentle warm blanket, she felt the spirit settle on her and a gentle calmness flow over her. Tears flooded her eyes as she gave thanks for the great spiritual manifestation she had just received.
Many minutes later, when she arose, tiny doubts started to arise, but she knew that she could no longer deny knowing what she should do. Facing Charles would be difficult, but now she knew that she had a reservoir of strength behind her that she had not yet tapped.
In the days and weeks that followed, she had to recall that special moment many times to give her the strength and resolve needed as she broke the news to her husband, then to his family. During the last times that they would ever spend together their relationship was indeed broken. They finally reached agreement on the terms of the peculiar divorce they were going through. Charles would keep Mary, and she would take little Isaac with her because he was still too small to be separated from his mother.
How strange to be divorced. Noone else in her family had ever been divorced, let alone abandoned a child. To make things worse, she still loved Charles. The only arguments they had ever had was over religion. Charles, ever the faithful Catholic, and Caroline the protestant turned Mormon.
"What harsh words divorce and abandonment are", thought Caroline. Even saying them in her mind tore the heart right out of her.
"Oh Father", she prayed again, "please help me through this. You told me that this is what I should do, now give me the strength to see it through." Suddenly that familiar calm feeling returned and she heard a voice so clearly that she looked around to see who spoke, but there was noone. "All these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good. Fear not for God shall be with thee always."
Caroline now knew that even though there would be many difficult times ahead she could make it through with the special help that she had found. She would never forget little Mary or her beloved Charles, but her destiny lie beyond the prairies that stretched ahead of them.