Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"My children are gone forth from me, and they are not"

It's hard to imagine the suffering and grief many of our ancestors experienced in the untimely deaths of their young children for lack of medical care we take for granted today.

I found the following heart wrenching example in the June 15, 1974, minutes of a Historical Society meeting held in my wife's home community in Juniata County, Pennsylvania:

In 1872 John Kurtz and wife Catherine Shelly had seven living children (five others had died in infancy). On the 25th of July the following died of diphtheria within a six hour period, Jacob, 6, Samuel, 17, and Anna, age four. Jacob and Anna were laid in one coffin, and all three were buried in one grave.

The text for the funeral service on July 28 was Jeremiah 10:19-20: "Woe is me, for my hurt. My wound is grievous. But I said, Truly this is my grief, and I must bear it. My tabernacle is spoiled, and all my cords are broken; my children are gone forth from me, and they are not; there is none to stretch forth my tent any more, and to set up my curtain."

Soon after they came home from the funeral, Barbara, age 16, died, then Catherine, 15, died that same evening. The next morning their youngest, Sarah, at a year and seven months of age, also died. Only John, age 13, was left of their seven children.

At the July 30 funeral service, the following text from Baruch 4:19-20 and 23 was used: "Go your way, O my children, go your way; for I am left desolate. I have put off the clothing of peace, and put upon me the sackcloth of my prayer; I will cry to the Everlasting in my days. For I sent you out in mourning and weeping; but God will give you to me again with joy and gladness forever."

The couple later had three more children, Abram and Christian, but no daughters.

Whenever I think of going through difficult times, I want to remember people like John and Catherine Kurtz, along with parents around the world who still experience the heartbreaking loss of children to disease, famine and war.
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