Home » Mourning Literature & Custom » THE STRANGER’S DEATH.


I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are by American and European authors and some surprising famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog. 


THEY stand around the couch of the dying. Who ? I sit the tender mother and idolizing father ? Is he surrounded by sympathizing sisters and brothers, the playmates of his childhood, the friends of his early days ? No ; none of these are near him ; strangers watch his parting breath ; old, unfeeling strangers. No tear of pity bedews his burning brow, no kiss of tenderness is pressed upon his fevered lips, no soft hand of affection soothes his pillow of death. Why is this ? Is he forgotten in the home of his father / he who was once the joy of every heart, the beloved of all who knew him ? Ah, no ! that mother’s prayer is even now ascending to heaven for her treasured child ; all is joy in that home ; for the son, the brother, is returning to his native land. He left the shores of our happy New England, left all that was dear to his heart, with but little regret, for he fondly thought that a few moths would restore him to the embraces of his friends. To the South he bent his steps ; prosperity smiled upon him, success crowned his undertakings, already was his mission accomplished, and he had started for the place of his birth, when alas ! disease fastened upon him and he was prostrated upon a bed of suffering, never again to rise. There, without one friend to comfort, so speak to him of hope, he must pass away to the spirit-land. No prayer ascends from that chamber of death, save from the lips of the dying stranger. Look on that brow. Death as set there its seal, but it cannot efface the intellectual beauty, the soul-speaking expression of his noble countenance. His eyes are raised to heaven, his pale hands clasped in supplication ; for what does he pray ? Hard was it for him to resign every hope of life ; to die, with the first flush of manhood on his brow ; hard to lie down in the cold grave, in the spring-time of existence, and double hard to die far from the endearments of friends, and to leave his remains in a land of slavery and crime.

“O!” said he, when told that no hope remained of his recovery, ” I Cannot die here ; bear me to my kindred ; let me again hear the voices of loved ones, and I shall rest in peace. ” But he, at whose rebuke the tempest ceases its raging, and tranquility is restored to the angry deep ; he, the God of all who put their trust in him, forsook him not, but over the trouble depths of his spirit whispered ” Be still.” And now the strife is ceased, calm and peaceful is his soul : and he breathes that sweet prayer of resignation, “Father, thy will be done.” A seraphic smile radiates his features even in death, a light of no earthly beauty beams from his eye, his lips move and the words “meet in heaven” are faintly uttered, and all is over ; the spirit is with its God, where the weary rest forever.

Peace to thine ashes, my dear, departed brother. Long will they memory live int he hearts of those who love thee, but who may never drop a tear upon thy lonely grave. In the far distant valley of the Mississippi strangers have laid thee to rest, the flowers oft eh sunny South bloom over thee, thy dust mingles with that of the down-trodden and oppressed, whose cause thou didst ever nobly vindicate. Yet methinks thy spirit often revisits the scenes once so dear to thee, whispering comfort and hope to the hearts that mourn thine early departure, and painting thee to a blissful reunion, where disappointments never chill, and where friends never separate. Even now, in this stil evening hour, I seem to hear a sweet, familiar voice, in tones of richest melody, saying, –

Sister, I am happy now,
No anxious fears alloy;
No sorrow clouds my brow,
But perfect is my joy.

My heart no anguish knows,
My throbbing head finds rest;
I lean, in sweet repose,
Upon my Saviour’s breast.

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