Death among children was terribly prevalent in those pioneer days. Many Seneca County families were devastated by the deaths of their children. In one family, all 6 of the children of Henry & Catherine Strauss died in childhood. One can barely imagine the immense sorrow that such events could bring. But in the end it was always a strong faith that helped carry them through these tragedies.
Intimately personal accounts such as this one are rare indeed. This young writer's compassion and literary talents are evident in this touching account.
As the evening shadows lengthen, and I look forth upon the twilight gradually deepening, my thoughts involuntarily go back to a sad, sad scene through which I lately passed. My heart keeps time to mournful music and nature dresses herself in sombre hued garments, as with sorrow I cast my eye upon a distant graveyard.
Not many weeks ago I was surrounded by a group of happy hearted children,
of whom I was teacher. Care had never touched their brows; to them the
world contained naught but beauty; sorrow, sadness, wretchedness and woe,
were to them little else than a name; not one drop of gall had yet mixed
with the cup of pleasure they drank with delight. The old woods round the
schoolhouse rang to the music of their voices, and oft times I breathed
a prayer that friendships then made might ripen into love; and ties then
formed under my guardianship, might never be broken. But "whom the Gods
love die early." The pet, the darling, little Janie suddenly drooped; the
short, dry cough, hectic flush, and strangely brilliant eye, spoke a sad
warning to my anxious heart. With a loving embrace she parted with me that
night, but the next school morning she was absent; already languishing
upon a bed of sickness. With her favorite schoolmate I visited her, but
no exclamation of delight or smile of welcome greeted me as I sat beside
her couch holding her little fever-burnt hand in mine. With her pale face
deeply buried in her pillow she wept and moaned; a language more piteously
expressive than words to my heart. I bade her a tearful adieu all unheeded
by the little sufferer. Shortly I visited her again and found her Oh! so
wasted, but a shadow of her former self. A deep sleep had wrapped her in
it's soft embrace and her loving parents with finger averted suppressed
all noise and knew that sleep was salutary. Alas for human prognostications.
It was but the deceitful calm which lulls the mariner to repose before
the storm breaks upon him in all it's fury. Once more I mounted my horse
and sought her bed-side. Before I reached her home my approach had been
noticed by her brother, (whom until that moment I thought absent at College,)
who met me at the gate. His presence filled me with dismay. Why was HE
summoned home? He silently helped me to alight, and I passed into the house,
round which a gloomy silence hung like a funeral pall; children's voices
were hushed and her mother's pale anxious face met me at the door. The
question I dared not ask was answered ere I was seated. I entered the sick-room
and immediately the almost transparent hand was extended, and "I am better,
Miss Lutie" was gasped by the blue, quivering lips. Poor, innocent girl;
death had already touched thy fair brow and there left his icy signet.
The large speaking eyes were raised so imploringly, but we could not help
her. Physician's skill, parents' fond and devoted love, brother's tears
and a sister's lamentation were all in vain. "Mother what is the matter?
Why do you cry? I am better." "Yes, darling, you will soon be better. You
will soon live in Heaven. Yes, Janie, you will soon leave us." "Oh! mother,"
came gasping from the little laboring chest. Her father's arms were her
resting place; he bore her gently from place to place, now here, now there,
but death was inexorable, with a jealous eye he watched the lamb already
decked for the sacrifice. The ashen hue had already spread over the face
and the eye was fast becoming dim. Still the lips murmured; "I am going
, father. It will not be long." Shorter and shorter came the gasping breath;
a long drawn sigh and her gentle spirit passed forth. I robed her little
body for the grave, folded the thin hands upon her breast, closed those
beautiful eyes, smoothed her hair, and then sat by her side. Yes, surely
she was better now, in a land free from care and pain her spirit was already
wandering. Better, truly better; her Savior's smiles were beaming upon
her; in the sunlight of his countenance she would forever bask. Had he
not said "suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not."
O mourning parents and bereaved brothers and sister, would you, dare you
wish her back in this cold, unfeeling world, where virtue is mocked at
and vice smiled upon? Do you not hear her voice in every passing zephyr,
in the hush of twilight, in the dreary silence of midnight, or the broad
glare of day, speaking in whispers, soft and low; "Heaven is my home,
To meet me - prepare - prepare."
But time rolled on and strangers bore her from the home of her father. No more would her light foot-step, and gay ringing laugh make music in the family mansion. The voice was hushed, and the feet tied. In a beautiful and romantic spot we laid her body to rest where the wild bird will pour forth it's song uninterrupted, the modest wildflower will creep over the clods which lie heavily upon her breast, the grand old trees will wave their branches over her head, while the evening breeze passing through it's boughs will sadly wail a requiem for the departed loved one. Rest, sweet loved one, no storms of winter will disturb thee in thy narrow home; though stormy winds should wail around thee and tempest hover above, though the snow should enfold thee in it's cold, white mantle, thou are safe - safe at home.
April 10, '59.