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" The past is always holy — every heart Holds something that has grown to be divine ; What haunts there are where memory walks apart I Each common place has some invisible shrine. And every heart that throbs, and every eye Has some strange tenderness towards something lost — Some secret spell, chance words will oft apply. Melting their fountains from a winter's frost." At first we would be disposed to say that no blessings can come out of bereavements. But the grace of God has such wondrous power, that even from the saddest desolating of a home good may come. One blessing from the breaking of a home circle is that thus we are led to think of our better home. If things went always smoothly with us here, if no flowers ever faded, if there were never any interruption in our earthly joys, we should not think of the enduring aoi
202 THI GS TO LIVE FOR. things of the invisible world. It is when
earthly good fails us that we learn to set our affections on heavenly good. Many a man has never found his home in God till his human nest was desolated by the storms of sorrow. A bereavement in a houshold draws all the family closer together. Love never reaches its sweetest and best till it has suffered. Homes which never have been broken may be very happy in love, and very bright with gladness ; but, after sorrow has entered as a guest, there is a depth in the love which was never experienced before. It is a new marriage when young parents stand side by side by the coffin of their first-born. Grief is like a sacrament to those who share it with Christ beside them. It brings them into a holier fellowship than they have ever known in love's unclouded days. Many homes have been saved from harshness of spirit and sharpness of speech, from pride and coldness and heedlessness, by a sorrow which broke in upon the careless life. The tones were softer after that. There was a new gentleness in all the life. Most of us
BLESSI GS OF BEREAVEME T. 203 need the chastening of pain to bring out the best of our love. A bereavement ofttimes proves a blessing to those who remain, through the laying upon them of new burdens and responsibilities. Many a son has become a man the day he saw his father's form lowered into the grave, and then turned away to take up the mantle which had fallen at his feet, — the care of his mother, and the management of affairs.
Many a thoughtless girl has become a serious woman, as in a day, when she returned from her mother's funeral, and put her hand to the duties that now must be hers if the home is to be maintained. Many a man has grown almost instantly into beautiful gentleness, when the taking away of the mother of his little children compelled him to be to them henceforth both father and mother. Heretofore he had left all this care to the mother. He had never done more than play with his baby when it was happy. ow he has to be nurse to it, soothing it when it cries, crooning lullabies to hu5h it to sleep, often walking the floor with
204 THI GS TO LIVE FOR. it nights. It is hard, but the new care brings out in him beautiful qualities never suspected before. Many a woman has been transformed from weakness to strength by the bereavement which took her husband from her side, leaving her with little children to bring up. It seemed as if the burden would crush her ; but it only brought out noble things in her soul, — courage, faith, energy, skill, love, — as she took up her new double responsibility. Thus the breaking of a home is often the making of the lives on which the sorrow falls. Few bereavements cause more disappointment than when little children die. But even in these there are consolations. That the baby came was a blessing. Life was never the same in the home after that, never could be the same ; it had in it a new element of blessing. Then its stay, whether it was for one day,
one month, or a year, was like the tarrying of a heavenly messenger. othing can ever rob the home of the benedictions it left there in its brief stay. Ofttimes the influence of
BLESSI GS OF BEREAVEME T. 20$ the beautiful life even for a few days or weeks is greater in the home and upon the lives of the household than that of another child who stays and grows up to mature years. This is one of the sorrows which in the Christian home is changed into joy by the grace of Christ. It is never a bitter grief ; it has no thorns in it. There is never any anxiety about the baby that is in heaven, as there is ofttimes about the child that lives and grows up amid the world's temptations. The mother of a dead baby knows any hour where her child is, in whose keeping, and never has any fear for it. Thoughts of it are benedictions which fall even out of heaven into her heart. In one of her poems Mrs. Browning suggests the blessing of the memory of a little child in the home, out of which it had been taken: — *' God lent him and takes him," you sigh, — ay, there let me break with your pain: God's generous in giving, say I, And the thing which he gives, I deny That he can ever take back again.
206 THI GS TO LIVE FOR. So look up, friends ! You who indeed Have possessed in your house a sweet piece Of the heaven which men strive for, must need Be more earnest than others are, speed Where they loiter, persist where they cease. You know how one angel smiles there. Then courage ! 'Tis easy for you To be drawn by a single gold hair Of that curl, from earth's storm and despair To the safe place above us. Another blessing of bereavement is the preparation for sympathy and helpfulness which comes through sorrow. We have to learn to be gentle, — most of us, at least. We are naturally selfish, self-centred, and thoughtless. Sympathy is not a natural grace of character, even in most refined natures. Of course we all feel a momentary tenderness when a friend or a neighbor is in any trouble. Few things in literature are more touching than some lines of James Whitcomb Riley, addressed to one who had lost a child: — Let me come in where you sit weeping, — ay, Let me, who have not any child to die. Weep with you for the little one whose love I have known nothing of.
BLESSI GS OF BEREAVEME T. 20/
The little arms that slowly, slowly loosed Their pressure round your neck ; the hands you used To kiss. Such arms — such hands I never knew. May I not weep with you? Fain would I be of service — say something, Between the tears, that would be comforting, — But ah! so sadder than yourself am I, Who have no child to die. There is a sympathy which every gentle heart feels with sorrow. We cannot pass a house with crape on the door, and not, for an instant at least, experience a subduing, quieting sentiment. But the power to enter really into sympathy with one in grief or pain comes only through a schooling of our own heart in some way. While a home is unbroken, the sorrows of other homes do not find responsive echoes in the love that dwells there. True, **love knows the secret of grief;" but even love that has not suffered cannot fully understand the heart's pain. The mother who has never lost a child cannot deeply comfort another mother, sitting by her little one's coffin. But when a home has been broken,
208 THI GS TO LIVE FOR. its inmates have a new power of helpfulness. Crape on a neighbor's door means more after that. Mrs. PauU never wrote any truer words than in her " Mater Dolorosa," written after she had laid her own baby away amid the white blossoms : — Because of one small, low-laid head all crowned
With golden hair, Forevermore all fair young brows to me A halo wear ; I kiss them reverently. Alas ! I know The pain I bear. Because of dear but close-shut, holy eyes Of heaven''s own blue, All little eyes do fill my own with tears Whatever their hue ; And motherly I gaze their innocent. Clear depths into. Because of little pallid lips, which once My name did call, o childish voice in vain appeal upon My ears doth fall ; I count it all my joy their joys to share And sorrows small. Because of little dimpled hands Which folded lie,
BLESSI GS OF BEREAVEME T. 209 All little hands henceforth to me do have A pleading cry; I clasp them as they were small wandering birds
Lured home to fly. Because of little death-cold feet, for earth's Rough roads unmeet, I'd journey leagues to save from sin or harm Such little feet, And count the lowliest service done for them So sacred — sweet ! Thus it is that sorrow in our own home makes all the world kin to our hearts. An emptied heart is a wonderful interpreter of others' griefs. The power to be a true helper of others, a binder-up of broken hearts, a comforter of sorrow, is the most divine of all enduements ; surely, then, it is worth while to pay any price of pain or suffering to receive the divine anointing to such sacred ministry. It was in suffering that Jesus was prepared to be in the fullest sense and in the deepest measure our sympathizing Friend. These are some of the blessings which come from the heart of God into earth's broken families when Christ is guest there. We are
210 THI GS TO LIVE FOR. sure always that there is deep, true sympathy with us in heaven when we are in grief — for was not God's home broken too? He gave his only begotten Son, that into this world's darkened homes might come blessing and healing.
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