In rememberance of my two babies gone to heaven. My sorrow is now turned to joy in the knowledge that someday we will meet.
Our small town is a pioneer town. It was founded barley 100 years ago by farmers looking for cheap land to make a living on. These brave people left many humble monuments for those of us living now. One of the most poignant is our local cemetery.
One day I decided to find the graves of the family that owned our home and lay some flowers in remembrance. I had recently been researching the lives of those who owned our old Victorian and used many old obituaries to get more information. As a result I found out that the mother and father were buried in our cemetery. After I had completed my quest I continued to look at the other tombstones as some of them were incredibly lovely and told bittersweet stories on the inscriptions. The loveliest were the white marble markers that were scattered with startling frequency in the graveyard. Probably 1 out of 5 of the graves were topped with these beautiful markers. Each one had either a hand carved lamb or fallen dove on the top. As I read inscription after inscription I came to realize that every marker was for a child or infant. This absolutely broke my mothers heart. Many of the inscriptions had a wrenching poem and a few words of loss for a child taken too soon.
Some stones were topped with 2, 3, and even 4 lambs or doves signifying the loss of multiple children. I of course knew that death rates for children used to be incredibly high, and I thanked God many times for allowing me to be born at a time when the loss of children was not a normal occurrence. But to see those stones that still echoed the pain of mourning parents brought the reality home. I looked at my four precious children and felt that loss in my soul as well. For these parents death was not something that occurred in the sterile and impersonal environment of a hospital or emergency room. They held their child in aching arms as it took it's last breath. They desperately watched as a adored baby struggled to breath. Brothers and sisters witnessed the loss of much loved playmates.
I have often heard the popular view stated that people had 10 or 12 children because they wanted more hands to enslave on the family farm. What a incredibly narrow and uneducated view this is. One only has to read the journals and diaries of men and women of yesteryear to know that children were not just viewed as workhorses but were beloved, cherished, and adored perhaps more than we do today.
After a diphtheria outbreak:
Eight of the nine children of a local family died in ten days in our town. There remained only a baby of nine months. The mother took to carrying this child constantly even while she did the farm housework. Clutched to her mother's breast, this child seemed inordinately wide-eyed as though affected by the silent grief which surrounded her.
The horse and Buggy Doctor - Aruther Hertzler, M.D.
Of a lost son:
Do you remember, I wrote you of a little baby boy dying? That was my own little Jamie, our first little son. For a long time my heart was crushed. He was such a sweet, beautiful boy. I wanted him so much. He died of erysipelas. I held him in my arms till the last agony was over. Then I dressed the beautiful little body for the grave. Clyde is a carpenter: so I wanted him to make the little coffin. He did it every bit, and I lined and padded it, trimmed and covered it. As there had been no physician to help, so there was no minister to comfort, and I could not bear to let our baby leave the world without leaving any message to a community that sadly needed it. His little message to us had been love, so I selected a chapter from John and we had a funeral service. So you see, our union is sealed by love and welded by a great sorrow.
Letters of a Woman Homesteader - Elinore Stewart
Of a lost Daughter:
Prayer for a very new Angel
God, God, be lenient her first night there.
The crib she slept in was so near my bed:
Her blue and white wool blanket was so soft,
her pillow hollowed so to fit her head.
Teach me that she'll not want small rooms or me
When she has you and heaven's immensity!
I always left a light out in the hall,
I hoped to make her fearless in the dark;
And yet, she was so small - one little light,
No, no, she seldom cried! God, not too far
For her to see, this first night, light a star
And in the morning, when she first woke up,
I always kissed her on her left cheek where
The dimple was. And oh, I wet the brush,
It makes it easier to brush her hair.
Just, just tomorrow morning, God, I pray,
When she wakes up, do things for her my way!
The ultimate testimony is perhaps the grave markers themselves. At the time cash was something you had very little of. Most farmers had an account at the local dry goods store and paid the account at harvest. So the money it took to put up an expensive marble headstone with had carved doves or lambs would have been prohibitively expensive. In fact many of the adult markers of the parents were simple or nonexistent. yet they sacrificed so much to place a stone over a child that was only with them a few years, months, or in many cases a just a few days. These children signified no monetary benefit as they could not yet contribute to farm work. Yet the expense and work of a years farming was sacrificed so that they would not be forgotten. The loss of a child was no less shattering as it is now.
Other little angels before the heavenly throne
Inscription reads: Our baby boy
A fairer bud of promise never bloomed
Aged 18 Days
Inscription: Angels whisper that our darling lives in lands of love so fair
that his little feet are waiting close by the golden stair