Article: A Pathetic Incident by Miss Slessor. Published in the Women’s Missionary Magazine [March 1909] [March 1909]
Dundee City Archives
This is an account of a tragic occurence when two parents brought a dead child, and their intense grief, to Miss Slessor, who did her best to solace them.
An article from the Women’s Missionary Magazine of March 1909?
A Pathetic Incident by Miss Slessor
A very pathetic incident occurred the other day. A woman came asking one of my girls to “come out and see.” The girl first went to see herself, as I had a poultice on my leg and was resting it. She came and said: “Oh, ma, you come, a poor woman and her husband are here to say that one of their children died two or three days ago, and one has died this morning, and what are they to do — could they ask any one, or could it not be *reversed?*” As a faint is called death, I did not know for a minute how to take it, as it meant to them that witchcraft was in it. I said: “Jane, go you and speak to the poor creatures, and try to guide them to comfort and light, and come and tell me how it stands.”
She came back with tears in her eyes, saying: “Ma, come yourself, I can’t say anything; they have the baby with them. ”So I hirpled [Note] out and found as pathetic a group as can be pictured – the father, a mere lad, in the front, with a child over his shoulder, and a cloth covering it; the mother, dazed and broken, holding out both hands to me, and crying : “Ma, help us;” a group of silent men and women in the background, wiping their tears away, and looking to see whether the white woman could do anything. What could I do? I said: “Come, my child, give me your baby,” and he laid the poor, dirty, unlovely, unclothed child in my lap. No loving hand had cleansed the poor wee mouth, or taken off the various layers of “medicine” which had been plastered over the little head and face and neck. Her beads were on her waist and arms, and elsewhere. It was death, in all its natural repulsiveness, stripped of the sweetness of Christian love, and the hope of immortality, which makes “their very dust dear” to His people; and instead of the hush of the chamber at home, where all of our humiliation is hidden away, there were the glare of tropical sunshine, the presence of all and sundry, and the long six miles’ journey back again to the miserable hut, which makes all they know of home.
You can hardly realise how difficult it is to find words to meet such a sorrow to heathen parents. It is such a blank, such a gulf, and our God has no tender, loving associations with home and childhood to them, who only know of God as a demon to be placated in any way possible. I was just led to speak to them of a great sorrow I had years ago, when I lost four boys in one month; and as I told the story, and from that led them on to what was my comfort, and what alone could be theirs, we came to a point where all broke down, and Jane took the cloth and laid the baby in it and wrapped it up. The poor father said: “Thank you, Ma; thank you, our mother,” and he put his dead baby over his shoulder and turned to go, the women holding the poor mother in her agony.
How little those who lightly throw it aside realise what they owe the Gospel. May God in His mercy save us from ever becoming a Christless nation exalted to heaven! May the fate of other Churches and nations who forget God never be ours.