The Death of Children
George Mylne, 1871
Oh! what a world we live in! How full of painful facts and harrowing incidents! How many souls are ushered into life; each one the offspring of a parent — each one tied to the native stock, by bonds of strictest intimacy! And thus a parent sees himself multiplied and reproduced in "olive branches round his table." Are they not bone of his very bone, flesh of his very flesh, bound up with him in all that is binding; their interests identical with his own; his energies expended on them, his thoughts devoted to them? For them he labors, for them he lives; their every pleasure twofold, both theirs and his; their every sorrow reflected in his own; his very life lived over again in theirs. In them, and with them, he plays with childhood's toys afresh. With them, in thought, he goes to school once more, and learns his early lessons over again. With them he joins once more in childish sports.
How closely dovetailed into one another, are a parent and his child, if only there be first the inclination, then time and opportunity, to cultivate parental ways — for, alas! this falls not to the lot of all, for where there is the will there may not always be the way. It is pleasant to see a father walking with his son, their very manner betokening a mutual intimacy, companionship in thought and feeling, like brothers in friendship — yet neither childlike reverence nor parental dignity lost sight of. And if so with son and father, is it not the same with a mother and her daughters, only, if possible, more intimate the union still?
But such is life, and such the law of its realities in fallen man, that joys prepare the way for sorrows, proportionate in degree. The closest unions are but preludes to the keenest separations; so that, in life's pictures, each gleam of light is counterbalanced with its shadow; and, sooner or later, sunny days are sure to usher in a night of darkness. And hence the fact of parents weeping for their children, and refusing to be comforted — their very persons, as it were, smarting as though a limb were amputated.
"The flowers of spring have come and gone;
Bright were the blossoms, brief their stay.
They shone, and they were shone upon;
They flourished — faded — passed away.
"So, hidden from our sorrowing eyes,
Our young, sweet spring-bloom buried lies;
One blast of earth swept o'er the flower —
It died, the blossom of an hour."
Reader, is this your sad condition? Have you lost a child? Whether son or daughter, infant or of riper years, it is much the same — in any case, a portion of yourself is gone. How sharp the visitation! How short its work! The grave has opened and has closed again; yet closed it not before it received its tenant — until in its yawning space you had committed "dust to dust, ashes to ashes, earth to earth." How shrank your soul within you, as you heard those moving words, that grating sound upon the casket! And as you hastened home, enrapt in your tenderness, the thoughts of other children left to you (if indeed you have them), healed not the smart, nor seemed to make amends for your lost treasure. Oh, what a fearful wrench it must have been, to tear that branch from out its parent stem, never to grow and flourish there again! Oceans of tears shed over that silent grave would not avail to bring your loved one back to you. Long might you kneel on that cold ground, and yet, nor verdant sod, nor marble tomb, nor modest headstone, could listen to your sobbing tale.
Think not, my friend, I blame you for your tears; neither does God reprove you. He knows that you must feel the wound inflicted on your sorrowing heart. He knows your frame, remembers you are dust (Psalm 103:14), and bids you seek Him in your tears, inviting you to tell your sorrows freely into His waiting ear. Believe me, this is the only remedy. Must the grave be visited unceasingly, and sorrow nursed until it becomes a morbid ailment a wound unsoftened with ointment, a standing sore; and all, because you sorrow to yourself, and not to Jesus?
Poor mourner, no! This is not the path to consolation, nor yet to rightly exercised distress. Do you ask, "What would you have me do?" See Love in it my friend! Is it not written, "God Is Love?" (1 John 4:8, 16). It was God who did it! It was God who took your child. Shall we say that God is love, in all but this? Have we found an end to His perfections — a limit to His love? Are there, then, exceptions to His perfect rule? No, God is love. Has He required of you what He Himself was not prepared to do? Has He not set you the example? Did God withhold His Son, His Only Son, for you and your salvation? Then say, could you withhold your child, when thus it pleased Him to ask you for what He only lent you for a season?
If you have grace, my friend, the grace of God in Jesus Christ, you only have to reason with yourself, to say "Amen" to God's appointment. Your heart will bleed — it must, it will. Shall a blow be dealt, and the frame not stagger at it? Yet faith will rise above it, and while you weep, the rainbow tints of resignation will cast prismatic glories on your tears. Visit not the tomb for mournful musings. If you can do it in joyful expectation of the coming day — the day of days — the resurrection morn, when earth shall render up the righteous dead to meet their Lord, then you may go with profit to the tomb — not otherwise. Take heed, then, what you do.
But if this way be foreign to your mind, and you can only weep as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13) — if you cannot go to Jesus in your tears, nor take Him with you to the tomb — you need to be enlightened by the Spirit, not only for healthful mourning, but for eternal life.