The Death of More Distant Relatives
George Mylne, 1871
The nearer to the heart — the warmer is the blood. And so, the nearer to the parental center (the fountainhead of blood relationship), the stronger is the tie. Yet is the circulation felt in the remoter members, warming them in due degree; and thus kinsmen are loved and recognized, though not in the foremost rank of family connection. And, as in the body, the strength of circulation shows itself by warmth in the extremities, so the strength of natural affection is proved in loving the remote of kin.
Much also will depend on force of circumstances, how far members of the same connection are thrown together by a train of binding influences. Thus an Aunt or Uncle may be brought into the foremost rank, and invested with parental claim to love and dutiful behavior; and, from like reasons, Cousins may become brothers and sisters in virtual relationship and actual regard. And thus the amount of sorrow at their loss cannot be measured by the scale of strict relationship, as though the blood of family connection must rise to this or that degree in a thermometer, devised to mark such bare realities. Yet in part we may adopt the figure, and affirm that often the influence between more distant relatives, may rise to "summer heat" of nature's ties.
Reader, you may have had an Aunt who brought you up from infancy (it may have been an Uncle, if not both; yet more frequently it is the former). Your parents may have died when you were young, and thus she may have filled a mother's office and a father's, all in one. Or your parents may have been in distant lands, and you were consigned for health and education to her tender care — her love in this enhanced, that she undertook an office not necessarily devolving on her, and incurred responsibilities exceeding the parental rule, as answerable for the trust committed to her.
It often is wonderful to see the rare devotedness of such a one — her self-forgetfulness; her time, her thoughts, her energies, considered not her own; life, health, and comfort, offered at the shrine of her adopted charge; anxiety to discharge the trust reposed in her; days occupied in toil, nights broken oft-times with distracting cares; and while she feels parental fondness, she has to teach the children that the claim is not her own, that there are others they must love still better than herself; and when her adopted ones have won their way into the very center of her affections, knit to her as her very own, with aching heart she has to resign her charge, and (if she can) unselfishly rejoice that absent parents come to take her place. Thus, while she weeps, she must be as those that weep not, while with meek and loyal resignation she submits to have her heartstrings torn, nobly refraining from offices no longer hers, nor claiming affection disparaging to the parental claim; sublime in the true dignity of self-control.
Reader, you may have had a guardian angel in a human form, as thus described — and now you mourn her loss. Her early care of you, perhaps long discontinued, you never can forget. You never ceased to render her a filial reverence; and now that she is gone, you see more clearly still how much you owed her; and in the retrospect, her character comes out in type of burnished gold. You well may weep for her — yet not for her, indeed, if she is departed to be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23) — but for yourself you weep, in paying homage to departed worth, and to your own character, as not forgetful of her claims. You may have parents still, or one or both, and be thankful to serve and love them, as the chief objects of your filial loyalty; yet a fond concern for your departed friend befits you well, and you may deem her removal, a call from God to number up your mercies ministered by her, His instrument of blessing — and you may mourn for her, as needing consolation.
On some occasions grief has to be checked, there being much to feed its natural extravagance. But, in cases such as this, it has too often to be put in mind and cherished, in consequence of many things tending to forgetfulness of benefits received.
How oft, again, a Grandchild has to tell of second parentage and fostering care — of having found a second parent in a parent's father or mother! It is sweet to see parental offices, long since disused, fondly renewed and exercised — the nurslings nursed, as though they had been their own immediate offspring — youthful dispositions trained, and pastimes entered into, with all the freshness of the time when it was not their children's children, but their own children, whom thus they tended. And when advice is given, and duty urged, by such advisers, how forcibly it comes! And memory invests the retrospect of fond association with reverence more than filial, in respect of age and character more venerable than even a parent claims.
Who would not shed a tear for such a friend removed? And never is grief more graceful than when youth mourns the aged ones, removed and gone. Such patriarchs outlive too often the thoughtful care and kind attentions of a rising generation. Thus, the more the honor to those who, true to themselves and aged friends, can shed on such occasions a genuine tear.
But at times it is the loss of a grandchild that constitutes the sorrow, when tottering old-age is suddenly bereft of kind attention, and unremitting, tender care. On such occasions the very prop of life is gone, the staff on which the trembling hand was stayed; and sad bereavement brings gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. Such grief requires peculiar consolation, equal, at least, to what a parent calls for when a child is taken.
In one respect the loss may be greater, more poignant still the grief, because, the more advanced the age and bodily decay — the more the prop is missed, the more severe the desolation. My aged friend, if thus you mourn, I hope you have found a better staff than human help supplies — even to lean on Jesus and the Living God. How sweet the promise, "For I, the Lord, your God, will hold you by the right hand, saying unto you, Fear not, I will help you" (Isaiah 41:13). I hope you know it experimentally, for great your need of resting on the Lord.
Your pilgrimage, it may be, is near its close, your days for needing earthly props well-near run out. Say, are you ready for the change? What are your prospects for the world to come? Do you, through faith in Jesus, look for a "city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God"? (Hebrews 11:10). Have you found the Door of entrance to the city — even Him, who says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes unto the Father but by Me." "I am the Door, by Me if any man enters in, he shall be saved" (John 14:6, 10:9). Make no delay. The days are hastening on, "the evil days," when you shall say (if not already), "I have no pleasure in them!" (Eccles. 12:1). Before "the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl be broken" (verse 6), see that you "have peace with God through Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).
Is "the grasshopper" even now "a burden" to you? (Eccles. 12:5). Yet listen to its chirp, though wearisome it is. It is a preacher warning of the sandglass of time is well-near run down, speaking of death and what comes after. It bids you look to Jesus, and be Saved — to Jesus, and be comforted.
But, reader, you may have lost a relative of an order more remote, yet brought very near in Providence, which reckons not by human grades, but oft raises up in the outskirts of relationship a brother's faithfulness, a sister's tenderness, a father's watchfulness, a mother's care; and grateful love; which sorrows not by rule, but by a sense of benefits received, pays tribute to the dead, and mourns the benefactor and the friend, accounting that, the less the claim, the greater gratitude is due, and weeps accordingly. May mourners of this class be comforted! May their blank be filled by knowing Him who fills all in all!