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Expressions of Sympathy on the Death of
J. R. Graves' Mother and Wife

      [Editor's note: The following is a description of the deaths by yellow fever, of J. R. Graves' mother, and shortly afterwards, his wife. It was written by Samuel H. Ford, an eye-witness to the events:

      "It was in the autumn of 1868, in the city of Memphis, the yellow fever, which had not been known there for many years, struck down among its first victims the venerable mother of our brother."

      "His dear mother, his guide and adviser, whom he loved with a devotion seldom met with, had just been laid in the grave."


      "The physician was there, Graves was by the bedside of his dying wife. 'Come in my brother,' he said, as I entered the room, - 'the only white face I have seen for a week.' 'She is going - Oh, my soul.' And she was. The hand of death was upon her. Hours passed away - so slowly, so mournfully and yet with such resigned peace. 'Is your trust still in the blessed Lord, Lou?' he asked her. She answered, 'Yes,' with a heavenly smile. Soon after she asked for her children. I told her where they were and that they were well. She lifted her eyes in silent prayer for them and then gave me her blessing - in broken accents whose influence I feel to this day."

      "And then a scene was witnessed - aye, by the angels - at that desolate mansion, which cannot be described. The dying saint said, with her hand in his, 'Mr. Graves, I have loved you - you have never known how much I have loved you.' 'Oh, don't talk, my dear one,' He replied."

      "'Yes,' she said, 'I have loved you dearly, but I can give you and my children up, without a murmur - it is the Lord's will.'"


      Graves wrote an introduction and then published the expressions of sympathy he received from various sections of the country in:

The Baptist
Jan 4, 1868, p. 5

Fraternal Sympathy

      Never as now did we feel the need for the power of Sympathy and words of comfort, and hope, and it does seem that, God in his mercy, sends it. Our dear brethren will never know how we appreciate the sentiments breathed in the lines below. From our sad heart we thank them, each a thousand times, and love them for their love. We have thought it over well, and are confident they will not be offended with the use we make of them. Such sentiments ought not to be lost. They are truly the richest gems of Christian thought, calculated to comfort the afflicted, that we have ever met with. We give them this publicity but to be the better preserved by our self and family. There are hundreds if not thousands of our readers who are to-day mourners - wives for husbands, husbands for wives, parents for children, and sisters for brothers - whose hearts may be as desolate as ours. None of us but has felt his heart aching for want of sympathy. We have had our lonely hours, our days of disappointment, and our moments of hopelessness; times when our highest feelings have been misunderstood, and our purest met with ridicule; days when our heavy secret was lying unshared, like ice upon the heart. And then the spirit gives way; we have wished that all were over, that we could lie down tired and rest, like the children, from life. We hope they will be advantaged, as we trust we have been by the sweet hopes and consolations of the glorious Gospel, so beautifully and strikingly presented. With such an object in view, we are confident of forgiveness. JRG


      Rev. J. R. Graves - Dear Brother. Having just heard of your deep affliction in the death of your wife and mother, my heart prompts me to drop you these lines of brotherly sympathy and condolence. I have drank deep into this cup of human sorrow, and think that I know from experience how to feel for a brother who is passing through heart-rending trials. Our poor natures would say that one such Ioss, as you have sustained, would be quite enough to try our faith and patience, but two such shocks falling upon one poor heart, in so short a time, may seem to be too much for poor humanity to bear. And so it would be, my dear brother, but for the sustaining grace of God. I am sure that you look to him, and to him only, to strengthen you and keep you, while these bitter waters are flooding your riven heart. O, yes trust in him, though he slay you - though he take all your loved ones from you, he will give them all to you at last. One of my happiest reflections now is, that two wives, nine children, two sisters, two brothers, and my sainted parents are all waiting my arrival in the better land. O, I know how hard it is to bear these sorrows now, but when we meet our loved ones in heaven, we shall realize that when they left us here, they were not lost to us. Stay yourself upon the arm of God, and he will sustain you.

      I know that my sympathies will not restore your loved ones to you, nor heal your lacerated heart, but they will assure you that you are not bearing your sorrows alone. You will therefore, accept assurance of my sincere condolence for you, in your deep affliction. Affectionately, your brother in Christ.
     Wm. C. Buck.
     Waco, Texas, November 25, 1867.


      Rev. J. R. Graves, Memphis, Tenn.
     MY DEAR BROTHER, Deeply have I sympathized with you in the painful events which have occurred in your family, within the last few week. Human sympathy cannot heal the wounds which have been made on your stricken heart, but I could not repress the desire to express a fellow feeling with you in this calamity, while I implore the All Gracious interposition of the Great HeaIer on your behalf. Your venerable mother I remember with Christian esteem. She was ripe for the garner above, and pre-eminently was ready to be offered. But your dear wife - how needful it would seem to us was it, that she should be spared, yet awhile to minister to the dependent ones whom God had placed under her care. But God has determined otherwise. He will do what is right. The doctrine of the Divine Sovereignty is specially soothing and sustaining in the hour of trial. When Jesus drank to the very dregs the bitter cup of woe, he felt - sorrowed - he shrank from it - but the will of God, all-wise and all-gracious in its designs, he recognized and yielded to It "Not my will, but Thine be done." So may it be with you, my dear brother.

      Pardon me for this intrusion upon your grief. May God care for those precious orphans who mourn their irreparable loss. He will take care of them. May you and they be prepared to meet the dear departed ones in a brighter, better world.
     Yours, tenderly,
          Jas. B. Taylor.
     Richmond, December 19, 1867.


      Dear Graves, What shall I say? Your mother and your wife are taken away from You! I find myself saying, "It is a dream. It requires an effort for me to feel that death has done so terrible a work in your family. Alas, it is no dream. It is an appalling reality. Your mother sleeps the sleep of death. and your wife has closed her eyes on all things earthly. What can I do but pray for you. I wish I could pray with you. You must say as did the Lord when his death of agony was at hand: "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"

      I doubt not, my brother, it is a bitter cup; no language can tell how bitter. The sweet words, Mother and Wife, suggest the bitterness of the cup of sorrow when mother and wife are taken. 'Bitter cup' I feel like laying down my pen and weeping while I think of it. But if sympathetic sorrow so agitates me, what must your sorrow be? I pretend not to measure Its depth.

      Observe the words or Jesus again: "The cup which my Father hath given me," A Father gives the cup, and you can say my Father gives it. The God who has all things under his omnipotent control, who bids kingdoms rise and fall, who scatters crumbs the pathway of the sparrow, is your Father, your best Friend. Nothing occurs anywhere, or in any world, except in pursuance of either his absolute or permissive decrees. Whatever takes place is the result of his positive agency or of his providential permission. He does all things well. You can not see it now. You will see it. The darker dispensation of Providence is the greater room for the exercise of faith. Confidence in God is never so fully demonstrated as when it rests unshaken amid clouds and storms, on the fact that he does all things well. Your Father decides what ingredients shall be put into the cup of sorrow. Can he make a mistake?

      In the sermon I sent you for The Baptist a few days ago, I referred to the fact that when Jesus comes there will be a solution of the mysteries of Providence. I may now say that the terrible problem- why has he thus dealt with me? - a problem which is breaking your heart - will receive so brilliant a solution as to change your tears into smiles, and your groans into hallelujahs. Shall I not drink it - the cup my Father gives? Drink it - drink it, not stoically, not philosophically - unmurmuringly, saying: O my Father, not as I will, but as thou wilt. Drink it thus and as Judson said to a bereaved missionary, "you will find sweetness at the bottom." God bless and sustain you my brother. With all the sympathies of my heart enlisted for you, I am
     Yours, most affectionately,

     J. M. Pendleton
     Chester, Pa. November 7, 1867


      Rev. J. R. Graves, Memphis, Tenn.
     My Dear Brother: Though I know how poor or commonplace are all human consolations in such an hour of sharp and bitter affliction, yet I must write to relieve my own feelings. What hopes combined, and each so irreparable. How little I thought when your dear mother came up in the pulpit and spoke so kindly to me, after I had preached that she would so soon see Jesus face to face and rejoice in his embrace! Then your dear wife so soon to follow her! My heart bleeds but not for them; it is for you and I can only implore the precious Redeemer to be now especially near to you.

      "In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul." We both know the sweetness of that verse, and now you feel, as never before that God's comforts alone can sustain and cheer you. May these consolations now abound. Look up, dear brother, to Him who is saying: What! do you know me now, but you shall know hereafter.

      I have found from deep experience that there is only one way. All inferior thoughts, resources must be laid aside and we must ascend at once to a covenant in Christ, lay our head upon his will as a child does upon its pillow.

      Again, God bless and comfort you.

      Your brother and companion in tribulation and in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
     R. Fuller
     Baltimore, November 24, 1867.


      This is from Eld. Shephard, Professor of Rhetoric in the University of Chicago, and the "Key Note" of the NY Examiner.

      My heart is torn this moment in reading an account of your terrible bereavement. You have my hand, my sympathies, my whole love. Immediately I prayed, God help him! And he will help you. I bow my head on my desk here in the hurry of business and pray that your faith fail not. Trust in him and lean on him. Soon, soon you shall know why it is, and then you will know it was good God suffered it. With tender condolences and all brotherly sharing of your grief.
     Nathan Shephard


      Dear Brother, Who would invade the sanctity of such grief as your great bereavement has plunged your soul in?

      I cannot resist the expression of my profound sympathy for you and your afflicted family, notwithstanding. What a warning to all of his ministers and friends, "Be ye therefore also ready."

      I take special delight in communicating this expression of my condolence, at this hour of indescribable trial to you and yours because I feel what I say and because I wish you to know that I do.

      Never a partisan, but better I trust - a friend, now and always, I would be.

      Let us pray and work for the peace of Jerusalem.

      May grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Your brother in Christ.
     Thos. E. Skinner
     Pastor, First Baptist, Nashville
     Nashville, November 24, 1867.


      San Francisco, Cal., November 28, 1867.

Rev. J. R. Graves,

     My Dear Brother - Yesterday I received your letter, bringing the sad news of the death of your dear wife. The evening before, I received THE BAPTIST giving an account of the death of your mother and the critical condition of Mrs. Graves. I felt for you deeply as one only can feel who has passed through "the depth." You know that I lost in Memphis, three of my family in one week, my wife, her mother, and one child. Oh, that week of horrors, it burst my brain and years have never healed the wound. Your experience is quite similar. May God sustain you, my brother. The mystery of such bereavements is not for this world to explain: we must leave it for the revelation of a better state. I can see Mrs. Graves as she stood in her bridal beauty. I think of the pleasant days you spent at my house in the first week of your wedded joys, but those days of gladness and hope are buried with that dear form that shall no more gladden your heart till the resurrection morn. Then shall we meet, not as in the past, but immortal and glorious, "equal to the angels." Thank God for the Bible assurance of the first Resurrection. Your double affliction is hard - very hard to bear. May God sustain you my brother.

      Jesus was made perfect by suffering; his followers are made perfect by suffering. The discipline of sorrow is the way of perfection in glory. It cuts the ties of earth, it dries up the sources of our comfort, but faith fastens our affection to things above and the Eternal all becomes the fountain of perpetual bliss. We sorrow not as those who have no hope. That cemetery at Memphis is the beautiful sleeping place of our loved ones; it is not far from our God and when the morning dawns, he will call and they shall answer. Others I have not of this told - precious jewels, but dropped here and here and there from the wild waves of the Atlantic to the deep mono tone of the Pacific. The heart has bled at each deposit of the sacred dust but life demands are urgent, and I am still at the post of duty. So it must be with you. Let the tear fall and then gird you for further toil. The work of the Master must go on come what may and in that work the heart keeps tender under the blows of the divine hand. I am not saying anything new, you know it all, but a kind word from this far off coast may be as balm to your wounded spirit.

Pastor, Second Baptist Church, San Francisco, Cal.

      Charlotte C. H., Vt.,
     November 21, 1867
     Dear Brother Graves,
     THE BAPTIST of the 16th instant comes as I had feared that it would draped in mourning. In this your day of affliction and bereavement, even words of condolence should be few. There are sorrows of the heart which no extraneous sympathy can soothe and it prefers to weep alone under the crushing burden of its grief.

     Still, I among the thousands of your friends desire to tender you my sweetest condolence and if possible and in rolling back these waves of trouble that have swept over your domestic hearth. The blow is crushing almost terrible, but 'to the upright light arises in darkness.' Be of good cheer the separation will not be of long duration.
     Yours very truly,
     Joseph Walker.


Fort Smith, Ark. December 5, 1867

      Dear Brother Graves,
     Time just to write a line or so in the midst of a crowd of children and friends. But must say a word to you my very dear brother in your sad affliction. Our Father in heaven sees fit to chasten you to try your faith to ____ you under the ____. He is not angry my dear brother but because he has made you a chosen vessel to witness for the truth under every possible circumstance. Oh that God in mercy may enable you to glorify him under this trial. I know that like Paul with the care of all the churches, and so often in perils and among false brethren, your heart was often wounded and cast down like a cart under many sheaves, or cares - trials oppositions without special grace must have overcome you. Before God demanded your dearest ones I thought you had enough without bereavement. But I did not know. I know the providence is right and I know it. Oh, that God will help you to ___ thy will be done. For this I will help you ____ for under such a trial your brother would be tempted to murmur. Oh, that God may care for your dear little motherless children, comfort your heart and sanctify the affliction. And be sure, when others may forget your brother in the west will not forget you in his poor prayers. When God took your excellent mother, what could we say but, "Thy will be done!" A mother in Israel in full age was called by the Master from low grounds of sorrow to the Saints everlasting rest. We thanked God that he had raised and preserved such a woman to be your mother. But it seemed to us she had fallen like a shock of corn.

      But last night when I opened THE BAPTIST a second time in mourning and for your dear wife taken out of season from her babes and your bosom, how I wished I could have stood by your side and helped you to have nursed and comforted your sick and helpless, and to have buried your dead in the day of your affliction.

      Our brother and sister Lambright are with us and be sure my brother that our hearts were made to bleed as we thought of you. It will do you good to know you have friends when ____ you who can ___ for you, who are afflicted at your affliction and weep with you in your sadness and loneliness. Our tears fell fast as we read. We did not weep so much because of what Dr. Ford and Bro. To___ and yourself and Sister Ford had written but because Sister ____ and you alone and sad and bereaved under such peculiar afflicting circumstances. Around our family altar we prayed and wept together as we asked our Father in heaven to bless, direct and comfort our dear afflicted brother G and his motherless babes.

      I have taken a few minutes from my time in starting to the Convention in Ozark that I might write a line not for the press but for the comfort of your wounded heart - that you may have an assurance, we love, weep, and pray, with and for you and yours.

      Your brother in sympathy and Christian affection.
     E. L . Compere


[From The Baptist January 4, 1868, p. 5; CD edition. - Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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