Monday, September 17, 2012

The loss of a child is an inconsolable grief..…

Thanks to Susan Jerome of Patterson, Illinois  for sending me this story.. It shows that "the inconsolable grief" of losing a child spans time and all socio-economic barriers - as this speaks of "Attorney Abraham Lincoln and his friend Judge David Davis" as they dealt with the deaths of their own young children and dealt with the "inconsolable grief" that is part of the journey....


In the 19th century, high infant mortality rates plagued rich and poor alike, and for many parents this earthly existence was a true veil of tears.  Few better understood this than David and Sarah Davis, who lost five children in the two decades before the Civil War.  From 1848-1862, Judge David Davis presided over the Eighth Judicial Circuit as he and a band of lawyers traveled from one Central Illinois county seat to another, often spending weeks at a time on the road.

In August, Judge Davis opened the Eighth Circuit Court in Springfield and was there when he received an Aug. 28 letter from his wife. “Lucy was well last week, but on Sunday night (Aug. 25) her bowels were loose — and yesterday she had a chill,” wrote Sarah. “She suffers no pain today but is feeble and languid of course.” (The letters cited herein are held at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, with transcriptions provided by the David Davis Mansion.)

By this time the Davises had already lost two children: A stillborn boy in 1840 and ten-month-old Mercer, who passed away in early September 1846 of an unidentified illness.  Writing from Springfield three days later, Aug. 31, David told Sarah that her letter made him “very uneasy so much so that I am really unfit to hold Court today.” He headed back to Bloomington, but it was too late — Lucy had died the same day he wrote his letter.  She was laid to rest next to her brother Mercer at City Cemetery (now Evergreen Memorial) south of downtown.

Yet with the death of his infant daughter Lucy Adam Davis of dysentery in late August 1850, the judge deemed it best to bring with him on the fall “swing” of the circuit his grief-stricken wife Sarah and their son George Perrin.  During those several weeks, Springfield attorney Abraham Lincoln took eight-year-old George under his care, giving his parents needed time alone.  While Sarah traveled by buggy with her husband, George rode with “Mr. Lincoln,” who knew well the inconsolable grief that comes with the loss of a child. Earlier that year, Feb. 1, Lincoln’s own son Edward Baker had died of “chronic consumption” just short of his fourth birthday. 

On Sept.5, Sarah penned a letter to her mother, Lucy Adam Walker, the namesake of her departed daughter. “Our little Lucy is no more,” was how Sarah began this touching letter to her mother.  No stranger to grief, Sarah still found some measure of comfort. “Our dear child passed away very gently,” she wrote, “and looked so like (an) angel in her cradle that I could not have the heart to wish her back in this world of trial.” 

Despite the sorrow (or perhaps because of it) Judge Davis prepared to head back out and onto the Eighth Circuit.  This time though, he was reluctant to leave behind the family. As an adult, George Perrin Davis recalled those weeks after his infant sister’s death riding in Lincoln’s “one-horse open buggy.”  The Davises faced further personal tragedy in the coming decade. Infant Frances Mary died in 1857, and a 45-year-old Sarah gave birth to a stillborn girl in 1859. Only two of their seven children, George Perrin (1842-1917) and Sarah “Sallie” Worthington (1852-1934), lived into adulthood.  In 1862, Lincoln picked Davis for a seat on U.S. Supreme Court.

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