12. A Short Dream
Josef Eotvos says: "For perfect happiness it is necessary that it take some tangible form. This happiness a mother finds in her child. When she sees the finest, loveliest memories of her life reflected in the smiling face of her child, when she holds in her arms the sweet burden of the future, or sitting beside the cradle gives way to sweet dreams, then she looks for no further happiness. All the treasures of the world have lost their lustre in her eyes."
When the heart bleeds, when this aim, this happiness fades, what then?
Night approaches upon dark wings
Cities and towns slumber
But at the sickbed, mother keeps watch.
With her kisses she tries to give new strength to the dying child. She does not wipe away the beads of perspiration, she kisses them one by one, hoping to see once again the smile, hoping to hear once more even the crying of her baby. The night is dark. The night is terrible. The dark mantle of death is being drawn closer, tighter about the heart of the child. The mother gives battle, defends her child. Shall it die, now that it is barely born? Shall the lullaby cease? That smile, that joy, shall it be no more? Has the last hope vanished? Shall it be broken like the string on a violin? Then morning dawns. Mother weeps; she could not conquer death. The aroma of the blossom has faded away; the soul has gone to heaven.
The pale small body lies in its tiny white coffin. Now there will be no more pain. Mother has grown calm. She can weep no more. She seems to see a tiny smile on the lips. She looks about, into comers, hoping to see the smile, to hear the laughter. All in vain. She returns to the casket. It is useless to wait for its awakening, but it seems hard to understand that love cannot recall the dead. In vain she embraces the dead form, in vain she cries out: "Awake, my darling, sweet fruit of my body, joy of my conception." All is over. The body is cold. Life has flown. The bloom of the rose is no more.
An unutterable sorrow takes possession of her, and seems to grow. She walks silently about the house. She recalls the days, the months, the joy, the happiness that was hers. She pages through the family register. Her child's life is ended here below, but only to continue in heaven forever. She holds the tiny hands for the last time. They will be remembered as something sacred. Every mother preserves every little keepsake as a great treasure. These will later on relate and tell the story of its tiny hands and feet, its lovely eyes and smile.
The casket is taken to the cemetery and laid in the cool, dark grave. The small grave shall be a bed of flowers. Sorrow and grief are the gardeners.
Once Upon A Time
There is an old, old story told, even the flowers whisper it to one another. Once upon a time there was a mother who had a lovely boy, the most beautiful boy in the world. But one day he fell sick and died. God had taken him to Himself. The poor mother was disconsolate. In the bright sunshine, in the dark of night she cried and cried. One night soon after he had been buried, he appeared to the mother, on the very spot where he had been accustomed to play. But the mother cried just as hard as ever so that the boy began to cry, too. At dawn of day, the boy returned to the cemetery. Some time after, he again appeared to her at night. This time he wore a crown. But he still wore the little garment that his mother had put on him when he died. He sat down on his little bed, just as he used to do, when still alive. Then he spoke to his mother and said: "O mother, do not cry so much, because I cannot slumber in my grave. Your tears are continually falling upon my little garment, and it never gets dry."
The mother was frightened and stopped crying. The next night, the little boy appeared again. His face was shining and bright and he said: "Look, mother, my dress is almost dry, and I will be able to sleep in my grave." After that the mother carried her cross with resignation. Her little boy did not appear again, for he was peacefully resting in his grave.
Holy Mother Church also consoles the mothers with beautiful prayers at the funeral services. "Praise ye the name of the Lord-The angels rejoice with a great joy-Praise ye the Redeemer, who hath also redeemed me-For my mother hath borne me not for earth but for heaven."
A Christian mother will find strength to carry her burden bravely in her glorious faith. Clothilde, queen of the Franks, having lost her child, prayed: "Almighty God, Creator of the universe, I give thanks to you that you have found me worthy to surrender the fruit of my womb to heaven. My heart cannot grieve over this. I know that my child has left this world in the white garment of innocence, that he dwells with You, and enjoys the beauty of Your countenance."
The holy Cure of Ars did not offer sympathy to mothers whose children died in the days of childhood. He said to the Countess Gearets: "Happy woman, happy child! What a great grace your child has gained for both of you. His earthly battle was shortened and he was taken to heaven immediately."
Your life was but a fleeting dream,
You barely knew its joy
When at its dawn, the angel death
Embraced my little boy;
And led you, clean and undefiled
To bliss without alloy.
The family needs a guardian angel; so these little angels must hurry to heaven. Long ago, after the death of a small child, its parents were sitting side by side grieving over its death. Suddenly a storm arose in the night. The thunder rolled, lightning flashed, trees were felled. The doors tremble, it seems as if someone is knocking at the door for entrance. Father and mother cry out: "Perhaps our little one wants to come home!" But then another thought comes: "Home?" Then one of them says: "Why, the child is the one who is home; we are the strangers in a strange land and we must find our way home."
The death of a child is well exemplified by the inscription on a tombstone, put there by a mother: "The Good Shepherd has taken the little sheep in His arms."
This item 1472 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org