Our friends may die and leave our hearts and homes desolate for a time; we cannot prevent it,
nor would it be best if we could. Sorrow has its useful lessons when it is legitimate, and death
is the gate that opens out of earth toward the house "eternal in the heavens." If we lose them,
heaven gains them. If we mourn, they rejoice. If we hang our harps on the willows, they tune
theirs in the eternal orchestra above, rejoicing that we shall soon be with them. Shall we not
drown our sorrow in the flood of light let through the rent veil of the skies which Jesus
entered, and, to cure our loneliness, gather to us other friends to walk life's way, knowing that
every step brings us nearer the departed, and their sweet, eternal home, which death never
enters, and where partings are never know? We may still love the departed. They are ours as
ever, and we are theirs. The ties that unite us are not broken. They are too strong for death's
stroke. They are made for the joys of eternal friendship. Other friendships on earth will not
disturb these bonds that link with dear ones on high. Nor will our duties below interfere with
the sacredness of our relations with them. They wish not to see us in sorrow. They doubtless
sympathize with us, and could we hear their sweet voices, they would tell us to dry our tears
and bind ourselves to other friends, and joyfully perform all duties on earth till our time to
ascend shall come.
"The sorrow for the dead," says Irving, "is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be
divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal, every other affliction to forget; but this wound
we consider it a duty to keep open; this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude.
"Where is the mother who would willingly forget the infant that perished like a blossom from
her arms, though every recollection is a pang? Where is the child that would willingly forget
the most tender of parents, though to remember be but to lament? Who, even in the hour of
agony, would forget the friend over whom he mourns? Who, even when the tomb is closing
upon the remains of her he most loved, when he feels his heart, as it were, crushed in the
closing of its portal, would accept of consolation that must be bought by forgetfulness?
"No, the love which survives the tomb is one of the noblest attributes of the soul. If it has its
woes, it has likewise its delights; and when the overwhelming burst of grief is calmed into the
gentle tear of recollection, when the sudden anguish and the convulsive agony over the ruins of
all that we most loved is softened away into pensive meditation on all that it was in the days of
its loveliness, who would root out such a sorrow from the heart?
"Though it may sometimes throw a passing cloud over the bright hour of gayety, or spread a
deeper sadness over the hour of gloom, yet who would exchange it even for the song of
pleasure or the burst of revelry? No, there is a voice from the tomb sweeter than song. There
is a remembrance of the dead to which we turn even from the charms of the living.
"Oh, the grave! the grave! It buries every error, covers every defect, extinguishes every
resentment. From its peaceful bosom spring none but fond regrets and tender recollections.
Who can look upon the grave even of an enemy and not feel a compunctious throb that he
should ever have warred with the poor handful of earth that lies moldering before him?
"But the grave of those we loved, what a place for meditation! There it is that we call up in
long review the whole history of virtue and gentleness, and the thousand endearments lavished
upon us almost unheeded in the daily intercourse of intimacy. There it is that we dwell upon
the tenderness, the solemn, awful tenderness of the parting scene.
"The bed of death, with all its stifled griefs, its noiseless attendants, its mute, watchful
assiduities, the last testimonies of expiring love, the feeble, fluttering, thrilling, oh, how
thrilling! pressure of the hand. The last fond look of the glazing eye, turning upon us even from
the threshold of existence. The faint, faltering accents struggling in death to give one more
assurance of affection. Ay, go to the grave of buried love, and meditate! There settle the
account with thy conscience for every past benefit unrequited, every past endearment
unregarded, of that departed being who can never - never - never returnto be soothed by thy
"If thou art a child, and hast ever added a sorrow to the soul or a furrow to the silver brow of
an affectionate parent; if thou art a husband, and has ever caused the fond bosom that
ventured its whole happiness in thy arms, to doubt one moment of thy kindness or thy truth; if
thou art a friend, and hast ever wronged, in thought, or word, or deed, the spirit that
generously confided in thee; if thou art a lover, and hast given one unmerited pang to that true
heart which now lies cold and still beneath thy feet, then be sure that every unkind look, every
ungracious word, every ungentle action, will come thronging back upon thy memory, and
knocking dolefully at thy soul; then be sure that thou wilt lie down sorrowing and repentant
on the grave, and utter the unheard groan, and pour the unavailing tear, more deep, more
bitter, because unheard and unavailing.
"Then weave thy chaplet of flowers, and strew the beauties of nature about the grave; console
thy broken spirit, if thou canst, with these tender, yet futile tributes of regret; but take
warning by the bitterness of this thy contrite affliction over the dead, and henceforth be more
faithful and affectionate in the discharge of thy duties to the living."
Sorrowing for the Dead
The Royal Path of Life - Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness - 1882 by T.L. Haines & L.W. Yaggy