The curtains were half drawn, the floor was swept
And strewn with rushes, rosemary and may
Lay thick upon the bed on which I lay,
Where through the lattice ivy-shadows crept.
He leaned above me, thinking that I slept
And could not hear him; but I heard him say,
‘Poor child, poor child’: and as he turned away
Came a deep silence, and I knew he wept.
He did not touch the shroud, or raise the fold
That hid my face, or take my hand in his,
Or ruffle the smooth pillows for my head:
He did not love me living; but once dead
He pitied me; and very sweet it is
To know he still is warm though I am cold.
After several years spent combing through the newspaper archives of pre-1920 Missouri, I have read countless stories of death. Some brought about by accidental circumstances - a frightened horse, venturing too far into the murky waters while bathing, coal oil fire starters, or falling asleep in the company of a train; while others faced death on their own terms by procuring a vial of arsenic, a swallow of carbolic acid, or a leap from great heights. The stories of Missouri's unremarkable, and mostly forgettable, souls have resided in a dark file on my computer, after being deemed too disturbing to be shared with my FB page audience (aside from Morbid Mondays, of course). The names of the dead, whether unintentional or deliberate, have been buried by the passage of time, only to be dug up from the archives and passed through my mind...wondering what lives they led before greeting Death.
These stories fascinate me with a morbid curiosity; the way a child feels when presented with the trappings of a present-day funeral. Sometimes I skim through an obituary and silently congratulate the deceased for a life well-lived. Others, like the sudden death of a young mother with five children and a newly widowed husband who hasn't a clue what to do with them, pull me into their story and lead a search for how the family survived after such a loss.
As a genealogist, I am constantly reminded that the names of the long ago deceased are someone's people. Ancestors to many who, most likely, still reside in Missouri and may stumble upon these posts by chance only to be met with a gruesomely described account of death. To soften this blow, I will include any useful information (burial location, other life details...) with my posts, when available.
"Cineri gloria sera venit" ~ Fame comes too late to the dead.
This is my humble effort to offer a moment of remembrance for those who have slipped quietly through time.