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A short story by Harriet S. Caswell

The Weary At Rest

Title:     The Weary At Rest
Author: Harriet S. Caswell [More Titles by Caswell]

The weary at rest. The idea was very strongly impressed upon my mind by a funeral which I once attended in the distant village of C. It was that of a very aged woman, whom I had often heard mentioned as one who had been subjected for many years to bodily suffering in no ordinary degree. I had never seen her, but was acquainted with many who visited her frequently; and I became interested from hearing her so often spoken of as a bright example of patience and resignation under affliction; and I was accustomed to enquire for her as often as I had opportunity. Owing to a rheumatic affection of her limbs, she had, as I was informed, been unable for several years to rise from her bed without assistance, and much of the time experienced severe pain. I was informed by her friends that through her protracted period of suffering she was never heard to utter a complaining or repining word, but was found daily in a calm even cheerful frame of mind. After a time I left the village and returned to my home. Returning thither to visit some relatives after the lapse of a few months, I met with a friend, soon after my arrival, who informed me of the death of old Mrs. H., which had taken place the day previous. Two days later I joined the large numbers who assembled to pay their last tribute of respect to one of the oldest residents of their village. As is usual upon funeral occasions, the coffin was placed in front of the pulpit, and a large number occupied the front pews which were appropriated to the friends of the deceased. In those pews were seated men in whose hair the silver threads were beginning to mingle, and women who were themselves mothers of families who all met around the coffin of their aged mother. Childhood, youth and middle age were all represented in that company of mourners. Their pastor, Mr. M., delivered a very appropriate discourse from the words, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." In the course of his sermon he took occasion to remark, that a funeral discourse should apply to the living--not the dead. I had before listened to different sermons from this same text; but I never listened to a more searching application of the words than upon this occasion.

Near the close of his sermon, he said: "I presume many of you are aware that I deem it unnecessary as well as unwise, on occasions of this kind, for a minister to dwell at length upon the life and character of the deceased, for, as I have before said, our duty is with the living; but upon the present occasion, I think I may with propriety say, that we see before us the lifeless remains of one who has 'died in the Lord.' I have been for many years acquainted with our aged sister now departed, and have ever regarded her as an humble and earnest christian. I have frequently visited her during her lengthened period of suffering; and have felt deeply humbled for my own want of resignation to the ills of life, when I observed the exemplary manner with which this aged woman bore her sufferings, which at times were very severe; and more than this, I stood by her dying bed, which I can truly say presented a fore-taste of heavenly triumph."

At the close of the service permission was given for any one who was desirous of so doing to look upon the "corpse," and with many others I drew nigh the coffin. I had been told that the habitual expression of her countenance was one of pain, and I was surprised by the calm and peaceful expression which rested upon the face of the dead. There was no sign of past suffering visible; and the idea of perfect rest was conveyed to my mind, as I gazed upon her now lifeless features. When the strangers had all retired, the relatives and near friends drew nigh to take their last sad look of the aged one who in life had been so dear to them. It seemed that her age and utter helplessness had all the more endeared her to her children and other friends; and many of them wept audibly as they retired from the coffin. As the coffin was borne from the church, the choir sung in subdued tones, accompanied by the solemn notes of the organ, the beautiful hymn commencing with the lines,

"Thou art gone to the grave but we will not deplore thee,
Though sorrows and darkness encompass the tomb;
The Saviour hath passed through its portals before thee,
And the lamp of his love is thy guide through the gloom."

When the long procession reached the church yard, the coffin was lowered to its final resting place, and the Burial Service was read by their pastor, and most of the company departed to their homes. I know not how it was, but, although a stranger to the deceased, I was among the few who lingered till the grave was filled up. That funeral impressed me deeply; and has often since recurred to my mind, amid the cares and turmoil of after life.

[The end]
Harriet S. Caswell's short story: Weary At Rest